Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

After recent allegations of multiple instances of sexual harassment have emerged, spanning almost three decades, Harvey Weinstein has been fired from the board of the company he co-founded. A number of days later, certain MPs in Westminster had allegations made against them for a variety of sexual harassment instances over a number of years.

Under the Equality Act 2010, anyone who experiences sexual harassment at work is protected. Although informing the perpetrator of your discomfort in some instances may be sufficient, there are multiple courses of action available if this does not deter them. These include:

  • informing a senior colleague;
  • speaking to a trade union or the human resources department of the organisation; and
  • keeping a written record of the incidents.

The Weinstein scandal, as well as the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon have come at a similar time to the release of new research by a Danish institute which proved a link between instances of sexual harassment and depression as well as long term absences from work. It was also proved that people are more likely to experience mental health implications from sexual harassment by a colleague than they are by either a client or customer.

This follows on from a survey conducted by the TUC in 2016 on 18-24 year old women in which it was found almost two thirds of the women sampled had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, ranging from a third reporting inappropriate jokes to one in four reporting inappropriate touching and one in eight reporting attempted kisses. Of the women sampled, one in five had experienced harassment from their boss.

Whilst the sexual harassment itself is a huge issue, the matter is made even more complicated by women feeling that they are unable to speak out about it. TUC found that around 805 of women who have experienced sexual harassment in the work place have failed to inform anyone due to fear of the impact it would have on their work relationships or would harm their chances of promotion.

Theresa May has pledge to fully investigate the issues on going in Westminster and the Government have stated they will produce a Code of Conduct for all public servants to abide by. This highlights the importance all employers should place on having detailed policies on conduct within the workplace and thorough grievance policies in place.

In light of the above, employers should ensure that they have detailed policies in place which deal with sexual harassment and appropriate conduct in the workplace, as well as listening to employees’ concerns and ensuring that managers are trained appropriately to know what to do when faced with issues such as sexual harassment.

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If you would like further information on this topic, you can contact Millie Kempley or another member of the employment team on 0345 070 6000.

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