An Essential Guide to Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment
Date: 3rd December 2018 | Categories: Employment law
As we head into party season, employers should act now to consider what steps need to be taken to deal with allegations of workplace sexual harassment and importantly, to ensure they have done everything they can to prevent such incidents occurring within their business.
The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as “unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual”.
In 2016, TUC research showed that more than half of women overall and almost two thirds of women aged 18-24 years old said they have experienced sexual harassment at work. These figures suggest that legislation alone is not sufficient to eradicate sexual harassment and employers must play an important role in adopting a zero tolerance approach within their workplaces.
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What should employers do to stamp out workplace sexual harassment?
- 1. Prevention is better than cure. Ensure your Dignity at Work policy sets out your commitment with dealing with harassment in the work place.
- 2. Talk to your employees about the issue. Communicate your policies. Ensure that staff know what steps they should take if they feel they have been subject to this behaviour. Also ensure that staff are aware of their responsibility to behave in a manner that is consistent with the standards of behaviour you expect.
- 3. Help employees and staff to recognise inappropriate conduct. Know that as well as unwanted physical contact, sexual harassment may occur through verbal and written harassment such as jokes, offensive language, gossip or unwanted nicknames. The conduct doesn’t necessary need to be aimed directly at the person who feels humiliated, it may occur through something they witness either as a one off event of a series of incidents.
- 4. Try to create an open culture within your organisation where employees feel able to raise issues with managers and feel confident their concerns will be taken seriously.
- 5. Speak to members of your management team about what actions they should take if concerns are raised with them and what actions they can do to regularly reinforce the standards of behaviour you expect.
- 6. Deal with any complaints swiftly, thoroughly and in line with your Company Employment Law procedures. Follow up with disciplinary action where appropriate.
- 7. Recognise that your responsibility to take action can sometimes extend to incidents that take place out with the normal workplace. In Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and other, The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that social events involving officers from work either immediately after work, or for an organised leaving party fell within the remit of “course of employment”. Employers should therefore be mindful of this and should take the opportunity to remind staff of the standards of behaviour expected at social events and Christmas parties as well as during the normal working hours.
Contact our team of expert Employment Law Consultants to let us help you put effective policies in place to prevent workplace sexual harassment.