Sexual Harassment

Source and further information can be found from ACAS

What can be considered as Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.

It has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a worker, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Something can still be considered sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser didn't mean for it to be. It also doesn't have to be intentionally directed at a specific person. Experiencing sexual harassment is one of the most difficult situations a worker can face.

All workers are protected from sexual harassment in the workplace. This applies to one-off incidents and ongoing incidents. This protection comes from both employment law and criminal law, depending on the circumstances involved.

Sexual harassment can happen in any number of ways, including:

  • written or verbal comments of a sexual nature, such as remarks about an employee's appearance, questions about their sex life or offensive jokes
  • displaying pornographic or explicit images
  • emails with content of a sexual nature
  • unwanted physical contact and touching
  • sexual assault.

Some types of sexual harassment, such as sexual assault and other physical threats, are a criminal matter as well as an employment matter.

Criminal matters should be reported to the police:

  • call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger, or if the crime is in progress.
  • call 101 to contact the police if the crime is not an emergency.

Making a complaint of sexual harassment

Any worker who feels they have been sexually harassed, or any worker who feels they have seen sexual harassment take place, can make a complaint of sexual harassment. It is always best to try to resolve this informally in the first instance with your line manager

Many organisations will suggest complaints can be made by writing a grievance letter to appropriate supervisors or managers, but there might be others too, including:

  • a member of Human Resources or Personnel with specialist training
  • a named 'fair treatment contact'
  • a local trade union representative.

Before speaking to someone, it is often useful to make notes about the incident involved, especially if recalling the incident is particularly upsetting.

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