CIPD research in 2020 found that 4% of employees reported being sexually harassed within the last three years, with younger women most likely to be impacted.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010 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.’
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. This could include inappropriate touching, sexual jokes, sending emails or messages of a sexual nature or displaying pornographic material.
What Are the Duties of Employers?
Employers have a duty to protect their workers and can be held liable for acts of sexual harassment in the workplace if it is found that they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have produced a helpful guide for employers on preventing sexual harassment at work, and has other helpful information on their website for employers.
Action Plan for Employers
In late April, the EHRC produced an action plan and checklist for employers in the UK working in the hospitality sector, to help ensure that staff are protected from sexual harassment at work.
This follows a report that more than 50% of women and two thirds of LBGT people reported sexual harassment in the sector. Although the guide has been developed with the hospitality sector in mind, it can be adapted to suit different workplaces and sectors.
The action plan includes helpful templates which can be used by employers, including:
- a practical checklist to support employers considering issues such as how to communicate a culture of zero tolerance to staff, how to change the working environment and how to assess working practices – the checklist can be adapted to suit different workplaces
- an action plan to record what action is needed in a workplace
- monitoring logs to record action taken
How Can You Prevent Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace?
- Review your training provided to managers and staff on sexual harassment in the workplace. Have you provided any? How recently? Training is a good opportunity to communicate the culture of the workplace and set the standards you expect and to help equip managers to deal with concerns raised with them by employees.
- Ensure your policies and procedures are up-to-date.
- Promote a zero tolerance culture.
- Consider how complaints are dealt with in your organisation and ensure that this is effective and that staff feel confident coming forwards.
- Monitor complaints that arise for any trends and follow up.