What To Do If You Encounter Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Last week it was reported in a survey by the TUC that more than half of women say that they have been sexually harassed at work and most admit to not reporting it. A survey of 1,500 women showed that 52% cited the problem, a third had been subjected to unwelcome jokes and a quarter experienced unwanted touching. This made women feel ashamed and frightened said TUC head Frances O’Grady. Employers have a duty to protect our employees if they are made aware of sexual harassment.
Rebecca Wilson, partner at Tollers, spoke to BBC Radio Northampton last week regarding the issue. She explained that sexual harassment occurs where the perpetrator engages in conduct of a sexual nature, that conduct is unwanted by the victim and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity or creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to the victim.
If you are an employee and you feel like you are suffering from sexual harassment at work, Rebecca suggests you should act as quickly as possible. Tell your manager what is happening, this can be done orally but also documented in writing. You should also talk to your personnel department or trade union. Make sure that you keep a diary of the incidents including the time date and location and who was involved and anyone that could be a witness. If the informal process is unsuccessful then raise a formal written complaint to your employer. Remember it is not just women who can be the victims of sexual harassment.
If your company doesn’t have a formal grievance process you can look on the ACAS website for a process to be followed. Individuals can be held personally liable in an Employment Tribunal. In any event it is not behaviour that should be allowed to continue and you have the right to be kept safe from this sort of behaviour in the work place so don’t just ignore it.
Rebecca encourages employers to be approachable when dealing with this issue and ensure they follow a proper procedure when it comes to sexual harassment. Having policies in place showing a zero tolerance for sexual harassment, may mean that the perpetrator becomes personally liable at tribunal stage, therefore protecting the employer.
As an employer, it’s best if you have a harassment policy in place, something which Tollers can draft, detailing the steps to be taken if an employee alleges harassment. Once an employee has approached their manager or raised a formal grievance everything should be recorded and they should be encouraged to keep their manager updated. The employee must be protected and adjustments should be made so that the employee stops being harassed. The employee must not be subjected to any detriment because of the grievance or raising a concern, as this could give rise to a claim for victimisation.
Tollers are here to help, we offer a Tollers HR package which would include supplying you with policies and procedures where necessary.
Talk to Tollers for any of your employment law related needs. We’re HeRe For You.