In the wake of recent reports in Hollywood, and Parliament closer to home, sexual harassment in the workplace is under renewed strutiny.
But why are we all so stunned by these shocking allegations? The TUC have estimated that more than half of all women have been harassed at work, so it seems that to all intents and purposes, sexual harassment is still rife. And just because you don’t hear about it in your workplace, doesn’t mean you can be sure it’s not going on – again, the TUC estimate that 79% of women it happened to, suffered in silence and didn’t tell their employer about it. I’m afraid to say, it is still happening. Alot. To both men and women. And it could be happening right under your nose.
So, beware. Not knowing it was happening or had happened is not necessarily a defence for an employer. Employers are generally considered vicariously liable for the actions of employees at work and it is the duty of an employer to have taken ‘reasonable’ steps to prevent harassment taking place.
And ultimately, if a member of your staff is found to have harassed a colleague, you the employer can be held responsible and find yourself in a discrimination tribunal. What ‘reasonable’ steps are you taking right now?
So what is considered sexual harassment at work?
In legal terms, sexual harassment in the workplace includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behaviour regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation.
It can take many forms but can include:
- suggestive remarks
- jokes about sex lives
- inappropriate touching
- hugging or kissing
- circulating pornographic material, online or offline
As shock continues to ripple through Hollywood and studio heads begin losing their jobs for failing in their duty of care to staff, perhaps we should see this as an important wake up call, to employers the world over, to tackle the problem moving forward as there is clearly no place for it in the modern workplace.
You and I can work together to ensure that yours continues to be a modern and safe workplace. Some simple and ‘reasonable’ steps you can take right now are:
- Ensuring you have clear polices and procedures, which incorporate a zero tolerance approach
- Delivering ‘top down’ training and awareness for all levels of staff as to what constitutes sexual harassment.
- Drawing up and applying a consistent enforcement of policy for dealing with allegations
Call me today and arrange an HR Health Check. I can help you to nip any potential problems in the bud, pinpoint now to improve your polices and procedures and ultimately ensure that you fully meet your employer obligations.
t: 01280 848415