The definition of sexual harassment in England and Wales is when someone carries out unwanted sexual behaviour towards another person that makes them feel upset, scared, offended, degraded or humiliated. Additionally, even if the person on the receiving end feels that they are not affected by any unwanted behaviour, it is still classed as harassment if the perpetrator intended the victim to be affected. It is all classed as sexual harassment and is very serious.
No one should be made to feel anything but safe and content in their place of work or indeed anywhere but it is a sad fact that many do with statistics revealing that almost two thirds of women experiencing sexual harassment in their place of work.
Many behaviors can be classed as harassment and these include unwanted sexual advances, comments or conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. It is not limited to physical contact and can involve verbal and written communication, gestures and visual material.
Sexual harassment is never acceptable and is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, meaning that people are protected legally it in various places which include the workplace. This is the primary legislation that addresses sexual harassment at work in the UK.
Employers should be doing all that they reasonably can to protect staff from any form of sexual harassment and should take measures to prevent it from happening. Employers have a duty of care towards employees and should be catering for wellbeing. If they fail to do so, they could be in breach of their employees contract. Therefore, employers should take all allegations very seriously and handle every complaint in a fair and sensitive way. Each employer will have their own clear sexual harassment policy and you should initiate your complaint by following the specified procedure.
So what should you do if you feel you are the victim of sexual harassment? You may have been made to feel as though you do not have a voice as perpetrators are very good at making their victims feel humiliated and intimidated but you do have a voice and a very loud one.
It can be very difficult if you are in a working environment and being harassed by someone you work with but you must report it to your manager, your HR representative and even your union if you belong to one. If there is any evidence such as emails or text messages then you can show these, otherwise it is a good idea to log everything that happens which should include dates, times and places as this will help you.
There are many specialised helplines and websites which are easily accessible and who specialise in giving the right advice and the correct support. Of course, if you ever feel threatened, have been victim to an assault or any violence, the police are there for you and will have specially trained officers who can deal with the offence.
It is essential for both employers and employees to be aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding any form of harassment in the workplace. Employers should take proactive measures to prevent it from happening and all employees must feel empowered enough to report any incidents they either experience themselves or witness. This helps to create a safer and more inclusive workplace environment for all.