Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The TV and newspapers are absolutely full of sexual harassment claims from both men and women, but do we know when workplace banter becomes harassment or when it is okay to touch a colleague?
The definition of sexual harassment, as far as the workplace is concerned, is found in the Equal Act 2010 which says sexual harassment is, “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them“. But what does this mean in practice? Essentially any kind of suggestive remark, any indecent remark, unwanted touching and of course suggestions that sexual favours are required for promotion or even to keep a job are all forms of sexual harassment.
A recent survey found that over 50% of women had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment, but only 20% of those women ever report the incident. It is important that women, and for that matter men, feel safe and valued in the workplace and the laddish behaviour of the past must be consigned to history and not perpetrated in a modern workplace. Therefore, your business needs to have a culture where employees feel that they can complain and that something will be done about it.
What can you do as an employer?
Providing robust diversity training will go some way to alleviate the problem and will give employers a certain amount of legal deniability if they have rogue employees. But without following it up and making sure that new employees also understand the boundaries all employers face becoming vicariously liable for their employee’s actions. All businesses also need to have policies for dignity at work in their staff handbook or policy suite.
An employee can take a claim of sexual harassment to the Employment Tribunal while they are still working within the business, but we would hope that once they had raised a grievance under the company procedure the matter would have been successfully dealt with so that the Tribunal was not necessary.
Premier Legal LLP have many years experience in providing Diversity and Dignity at work training either at our regular seminars or in-house for businesses. We can also provide staff handbooks and bespoke policies. Please call out Nottingham Head Office on: 0115 988 6211 for more information.