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Sponsored Content: Allied World

Proactive Policies Help Companies Handle Workplace Harassment

The spotlight on workplace harassment is new, but the issue itself is not.
By: | April 2, 2018 • 7 min read

#MeToo, #TimesUp – these hashtags and the movements they represent were originally focused on the entertainment industry and political figures.

But no longer.

Over the last few months many corporate executives have been outed for their inappropriate or illegal actions toward women in the workplace. And it seems that a new bold-faced name appears in the headlines each week.

These high-profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. While the big names may grab headlines, no industry or company of any size is immune to the risk of workplace harassment. Increased awareness around the issue is emboldening others to speak up and sexual harassment is now an exposure knocking on the door of every boardroom.

“We’re in the midst of a culture shift where society is paying more attention to equality and safety in the workplace,” said Gregg Glick, Senior Vice President, Private/Not-for-Profit Practice Lead, Private/Healthcare Division, Allied World.

But while the spotlight is new, the issue at hand is not.

“As an insurer, we have long seen allegations of workplace harassment resulting in Employment Practice Liability (EPL) claims, including not just harassment but also hostile work environment and wrongful termination,” Glick said. “Our focus has always been on managing the risk by fostering a safe work environment. It’s not just about an insurance policy, it is about a culture.”

Establishing a corporate culture in which safety and respect are valued and protected is the best way to manage the exposure long term.

To create and continually reinforce this culture, companies need to reevaluate their policies, incident reporting procedures and response plans. To ensure up-to-date, clear and effective policies, they can rely on the risk expertise of insurers with experience in and commitment to the employment practices liability space.

Strong, Current Policies and Consistent Enforcement are the Foundation for a Healthy Culture

Gregg Glick, Senior Vice President, Private/Not-for-Profit Practice Lead, Private/Healthcare Division

Small companies may have no formal written policies whatsoever. And employers with outdated policies may also be underprepared to address the exposure.

“Policy effectiveness is determined by how contemporary and well-reviewed they are, and by how they are deployed and enforced in the workplace. This is where you’re going to start to build the culture that’s going to foster a safe environment,” Glick said. “Policies that are outdated, unclear, or not well-communicated to employees don’t achieve much.”

Employee handbooks that haven’t been updated in a decade may no longer be comprehensive enough to address that various realms and modes in which workers interact. For example, they likely do not account for the prevalence of smartphones and social media or address cyber bullying.

Employees also need a way to report inappropriate behavior safely. This could mean setting up an anonymous hotline managed by a third party, or a private way to notify human resources. It has to be more robust than simply having employees report incidents to their direct manager.

“What if the manager is the harasser?” Glick said. “Few people would be willing to confront him or her directly and risk threatening their job status. Employees need to know how to share information with someone who’s going to help them. These policies have to be clear, easy to follow, and communicated often.”

Once an employee files a complaint, there also must be clear investigation procedures.

“Given the amount of public attention on sexual harassment in the workplace, companies may be inclined to take immediate action because they don’t want to look like they stood by and did nothing,” Glick said. “Every allegation must be taken seriously, but companies need to be able to conduct thorough investigations.”

Making a reactionary decision like terminating or suspending the accused on the spot could result in a wrongful termination claim if it turns out there was no bad behavior, and damage the company’s reputation.

If an investigation corroborates an employee’s claim and someone is guilty of inappropriate or hostile behavior, a clear response protocol should dictate next steps. A zero-tolerance policy ensures that a company’s response is consistent across the board, regardless of the severity of the claim or the position of those involved.

Every step that would normally be taken to terminate an employee should remain in place, and documented thoroughly. Rushing through an investigation or skipping steps of the process can be a violation of employment law and open a company up to wrongful termination lawsuits.

“Not every incident is preventable. There will always be bad apples, but your culture is defined by how you respond,” Glick said.

Be Prepared to Act Quickly and Effectively

Crystal clear procedures make it easier to catch, investigate and respond to incidents, but crafting these policies to be compliant and accessible to employees can be challenging, especially for small and mid-size companies with more limited resources.

Tools are available in the marketplace to help risk managers strengthen their defenses.

Third party risk management consultants and service providers can help companies stay up to date on their state’s employment laws via monthly updates and real-time alerts. Training modules for employees also remind them of the consequences of inappropriate workplace behavior and reinforce company policies. Portals and libraries for human resource managers provide template forms and posters, additional training materials, and regulatory news.

Some also offer handbook-building tools, which allow companies to craft custom policies that are applicable to their workforce while remaining compliant with federal and state law. This can help firms update existing policies or create completely new ones.

Around-the-clock helplines are another critical resource that risk managers would be remiss not to take advantage of. Employment practices attorneys with state-specific expertise are on call to answer insureds’ questions and offer advice, free of charge.

“This is an opportunity to have an experienced attorney walk you through a situation before it turns into a claim. If someone has a complaint, and you’re unsure of the proper protocol, how to launch an investigation, or what is required by law in your state, the answer is only a phone call away,” Glick said.

“We offer a 24/7 helpline, among other services, through our relationship with the workplace HELPLINE, powered by Enquiron®, a risk management consulting firm. Companies that utilize these services proactively position themselves for better claim outcomes.”

Unfortunately, many HR managers and risk professionals are unaware of services, missing opportunities to mitigate their exposure and avoid potential claims. Rather than leave insureds to find these resources on their own, Allied World works with brokers to educate them about their offerings from the time a policy is bound.

Heightened Risks and Changing Markets Require Working with High Quality Partners

Amid a societal shift demanding change, companies can expect employment practices insurance coverages to shift as well. Awareness will likely drive up claim frequency, and settlements for EPL lawsuits are climbing. As a result, rates could trend upward as well.

“Brokers can anticipate some market hardening, rising rates, tighter terms and conditions,” Glick said. “We have always been careful and thoughtful about risk selection, and thus are well positioned to not have to react hastily amid the culture shift and changing market conditions. All insurers in this space should be proactively analyzing their books to ensure they are accepting the right risks.”

Allied World evaluates each risk on its own merits, looking at criteria like industry type, employee size, and region. It carefully evaluates its portfolio on a regular basis to check its aggregate risk and limits. This means they are positioning themselves to stay competitive in the market over the long haul and avoid sudden changes in terms and conditions or rates.

“And that’s what you want in a partnership – no surprises,” Glick said. “We’ve been in the market for 10 years. We understand the needs of mid-size companies, and are committed to meeting those needs consistently.”

Communication with brokers and insureds is key to staying ahead of the risk and positioning every party to be prepared for changes in the exposure itself and the market landscape. Allied World’s senior leaders, each with an average 10 years of experience in the field, undergo continual education around the changing nature of the risk and regulatory landscape. Deployed throughout the country, they are always on-hand and accessible to answer insureds’ questions.

To learn more, visit https://www.alliedworldinsurance.com/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Allied World. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Allied World is a global provider of innovative property, casualty and specialty insurance and reinsurance solutions.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Report: Manufacturing

More Robots Enter Into Manufacturing Industry

With more jobs utilizing technology advancements, manufacturing turns to cobots to help ease talent gaps.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 6 min read

The U.S. manufacturing industry is at a crossroads.

Faced with a shortfall of as many as two million workers between now and 2025, the sector needs to either reinvent itself by making it a more attractive career choice for college and high school graduates or face extinction. It also needs to shed its image as a dull, unfashionable place to work, where employees are stuck in dead-end repetitive jobs.

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Added to that are the multiple risks caused by the increasing use of automation, sensors and collaborative robots (cobots) in the manufacturing process, including product defects and worker injuries. That’s not to mention the increased exposure to cyber attacks as manufacturers and their facilities become more globally interconnected through the use of smart technology.

If the industry wishes to continue to move forward at its current rapid pace, then manufacturers need to work with schools, governments and the community to provide educational outreach and apprenticeship programs. They must change the perception of the industry and attract new talent. They also need to understand and to mitigate the risks presented by the increased use of technology in the manufacturing process.

“Loss of knowledge due to movement of experienced workers, negative perception of the manufacturing industry and shortages of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and skilled production workers are driving the talent gap,” said Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting.

“The risks associated with this are broad and span the entire value chain — [including]  limitations to innovation, product development, meeting production goals, developing suppliers, meeting customer demand and quality.”

The Talent Gap

Manufacturing companies are rapidly expanding. With too few skilled workers coming in to fill newly created positions, the talent gap is widening. That has been exacerbated by the gradual drain of knowledge and expertise as baby boomers retire and a decline in technical education programs in public high schools.

Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting

“Most of the millennials want to work for an Amazon, Google or Yahoo, because they seem like fun places to work and there’s a real sense of community involvement,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance, Daimler Trucks North America. “In contrast, the manufacturing industry represents the ‘old school’ where your father and grandfather used to work.

“But nothing could be further from the truth: We offer almost limitless opportunities in engineering and IT, working in fields such as electric cars and autonomous driving.”

To dispel this myth, Holden said Daimler’s Educational Outreach Program assists qualified organizations that support public high school educational programs in STEM, CTE (career technical education) and skilled trades’ career development.

It also runs weeklong technology schools in its manufacturing facilities to encourage students to consider manufacturing as a vocation, he said.

“It’s all essentially a way of introducing ourselves to the younger generation and to present them with an alternative and rewarding career choice,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to get across the message that just because we make heavy duty equipment doesn’t mean we can’t be a fun and educational place to work.”

Rise of the Cobot

Automation undoubtedly helps manufacturers increase output and improve efficiency by streamlining production lines. But it’s fraught with its own set of risks, including technical failure, a compromised manufacturing process or worse — shutting down entire assembly lines.

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More technologically advanced machines also require more skilled workers to operate and maintain them. Their absence can in turn hinder the development of new manufacturing products and processes.

Christina Villena, vice president of risk solutions, The Hanover Insurance Group, said the main risk of using cobots is bodily injury to their human coworkers. These cobots are robots that share a physical workspace and interact with humans. To overcome the problem of potential injury, Villena said, cobots are placed in safety cages or use force-limited technology to prevent hazardous contact.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them.” — David Carlson, U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader, Marsh

“Technology must be in place to prevent cobots from exerting excessive force against a human or exposing them to hazardous tools or chemicals,” she said. “Traditional robots operate within a safety cage to prevent dangerous contact. Failure or absence of these guards has led to injuries and even fatalities.”

The increasing use of interconnected devices and the Cloud to control and collect data from industrial control systems can also leave manufacturers exposed to hacking, said David Carlson, Marsh’s U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader. Given the relatively new nature of cyber as a risk, however, he said coverage is still a gray area that must be assessed further.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them,” he said. “Therefore, companies need to think beyond the traditional risks, such as workers’ compensation and product liability.”

Another threat, said Bill Spiers, vice president, risk control consulting practice leader, Lockton Companies, is any malfunction of the software used to operate cobots. Then there is the machine not being able to cope with the increased workload when production is ramped up, he said.

“If your software goes wrong, it can stop the machine working or indeed the whole manufacturing process,” he said. “[Or] you might have a worker who is paid by how much they can produce in an hour who decides to turn up the dial, causing the machine to go into overdrive and malfunction.”

Potential Solutions

Spiers said risk managers need to produce a heatmap of their potential exposures in the workplace attached to the use of cobots in the manufacturing process, including safety and business interruption. This can also extend to cyber liability, he said.

“You need to understand the risk, if it’s controllable and, indeed, if it’s insurable,” he said. “By carrying out a full risk assessment, you can determine all of the relevant issues and prioritize them accordingly.”

By using collective learning to understand these issues, Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting, said companies can improve their safety and manufacturing processes.

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it.” — Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it,” Mayo said. “They can also use detective controls to anticipate these issues and react accordingly by ensuring they have the appropriate controls and coverage in place to deal with them.”

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Manufacturing risks today extend beyond traditional coverage, like workers’ compensation, property, equipment breakdown, automobile, general liability and business interruption, to new risks, such as cyber liability.

It’s key to use a specialized broker and carrier with extensive knowledge and experience of the industry’s unique risks.

Stacie Graham, senior vice president and general manager, Liberty Mutual’s national insurance central division, said there are five key steps companies need to take to protect themselves and their employees against these risks. They include teaching them how to use the equipment properly, maintaining the same high quality of product and having a back-up location, as well as having the right contractual insurance policy language in place and plugging any potential coverage gaps.

“Risk managers need to work closely with their broker and carrier to make sure that they have the right contractual controls in place,” she said. “Secondly, they need to carry out on-site visits to make sure that they have the right safety practices and to identify the potential claims that they need to mitigate against.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]