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Sexual Harassment in the work place

Mark Ferron

15 January 2018

Sexual harassment at work is one of the most common forms of harassment and is specifically outlawed by the Equality Act 2010.
Employment Tribunal claims can be made by men or women, job applicants, employees, and apprentices.

These situations are never easy and can be a very tricky and difficult as victims of the sexual harassment are often in a position of vulnerability, and afraid of damaging or putting their career prospects at risk if they take steps to protect themselves.

Unlike direct discrimination, harassment claims do not require any comparator – in other words, it is not necessary for you to show that another person was, or would have been, treated more favourably than you.

The 3 different types of sexual harassment claims at work

1. Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, which has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This would include inappropriate touching, sexual innuendos, persistent requests for dates, leering and suggestive gestures, invasion of your personal space, and sexually explicit jokes.

2. Where you either reject sexual advances, or accept them, but you are subsequently treated less favourably by the person who has harassed you. Examples of such less favourable treatment include, intentionally blocking your promotion or training opportunities (because the unwelcome sexual advances are turned down), and derogatory comments or unwarranted criticisms that are made as a result of refusing to go out with the person who is harassing you (or is a friend of the harasser).

3. Sex-related harassment, where there is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which relates to your gender, which again, has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creating an unpleasant environment. For example, this would include hostile comments about childcare arrangements (if you are a female) and you have to constantly leave work early to care for your young children.

Expert employment advocate Mark Ferron explains and answers some questions on sexual harassment at work.

I'm Mark Ferron Managing Director of Castle Associates, what should you do if you think you are being sexually harassed at work?
So what sort of behaviour counts as sexual harassment at work? And what should you do if you think this is happening to you?

So first of all what is sexual harassment of work? Put simply sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. Now this harassment can be verbal, non-verbal and may make you feel intimidated or uncomfortable and you do not need to have objected to a person's behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.
It can include sexual comments or jokes, in person or via email, inappropriate touching such as pinching or patting or even hugging, unwelcome sexual advances or other forms of sexual assault. Staring in a sexually suggestive manner or wolf whistling, displaying images of a sexual nature and being treated less favourably as a result of rejecting someone's advances.

The important point I would like to say is keep a diary, recording the events of the harassment, when it has happened, who was there and what was said, keep copies of any emails, information or evidence that will support what your experience or going through.

What actions can you take? Anyone who's experienced sexual harassment in the workplace is protected by the Equality Act 2010 and in some cases telling someone that their behaviour is making you feel uncomfortable may be enough to stop it or even confiding in a work colleague it can also help you ask them to have a quiet word for you for help decide what you're going to do or just provide you the additional support. And if that doesn't stop following a quiet word you can tell your manager, putting it in writing and keeping a record, which in effect is raising a grievance and this can be dealt with formally or informally and that is your choice. And this is where the evidence that you've collected really helps.

Speaking to your HR department or trade union rep they can offer a
further advice and support and you can stay anonymous if you choose to. If none of these actions work then your last option is to make a claim at an employment tribunal but before you do this we do need to take some legal advice.

If you need some advice please do not hesitate to contact us it's completely free and it's in total confidence so thanks for watching

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