In a society where we have progressed and moved forward in many areas, it is shocking to see that by some, sexual advances and innuendo as still seen as ‘banter’. The latest survey conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Everyday Sexism Project revealed that more than half of women have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, including sexual assaults and comments about their bodies. So what should employers being do to prevent this from continuing?
Employers should be aware that sexual harassment can take more than one form within the workplace. Anti-discrimination laws protect workers against unwanted conduct of a sexual nature and unwanted conduct due to the person’s sex or gender where this has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, degrading, humiliating or hostile environment. Additionally, sexual harassment can also rise where an employee rejects, or submits to, sexual advances and is then treated less favourably by the harasser.
Employers will be vicariously liable for any acts of sexual harassment by their employees during the course of their employment, including any events which extend the working day such as work parties or outings. Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring. These can include equal opportunity training with all managers and staff, having and implementing an anti-harassment policy and communicating the process to follow if employees believe they have suffered a form of sexual harassment.
The TUC survey also found that 79% of women did not tell their employer about being sexually harassed for reasons including fear that a complaint would affect their career prospects (15%) or because they were too embarrassed (20%). Employers should create a culture where employees feel they can make complaints about sexual harassment and that these will be taken seriously by managers. An effective way to do this is to highlight a nominated person in an anti-harassment policy to make complaints to highlight the issue will be dealt with properly.”
Employers should create a culture where employees feel they can make complaints about sexual harassment and that these will be taken seriously by managers. An effective way to do this is to highlight a nominated person in an anti-harassment policy to make complaints to highlight the issue will be dealt with properly.
Employees and managers should be made aware that claims of sexual harassment are serious and these will be treated as such. Any harassment claims should be fully investigated and evidence, such as witness statements, should be sought in a timely manner before a decision over whether harassment occurred can be made. In circumstances of serious harassment, suspension of the alleged harasser should be considered.