Allegations of sexual harassment are prolific in the news with regard to Hollywood celebrities and UK politicians but are you aware of your obligations as an employer with regard to claims of sexual harassment at work?
Harassment can include anything from inappropriate sexual jokes or comments to physical behaviour such as unwanted touching.
We recommend that employers include a policy on sexual harassment within their Employee Handbook. This can be a stand-alone policy or part of the Equal Opportunities and Anti-discrimination policy. This should be issued to all employees and periodically referred to in any company memos and training sessions on this topic.
Employees must be told how to report an allegation of sexual harassment. This can be using the grievance procedure or through a separate process if the employer prefers.
Employers must investigate a report of sexual harassment as a priority as there is a legal responsibility to ensure that the workplace is free from harassment.
Employees should feel supported when disclosing to their employer that they are being harassed in the workplace and they should not be subjected to any detriment(victimised) as result of their complaint.
Disgruntled employees may bring claims of sex discrimination against their employer and the individual perpetrator in the Employment Tribunal. In addition, if the employer handles their complaint badly (or not at all), an employee may claim constructive unfair dismissal.
If you need some support with putting adequate policies, training or processes in place to deal with complaints of sexual harassment or you have received a complaint and you are not sure how to deal with it properly, get in touch to find out how we can help you.
Written by Leah Williams, Paralegal at Your HR Lawyer.