Sadly, sexual harassment is not a complete rarity in today’s workplace, and our team have on occasion had to provide a business with extensive support to manage the way a complaint is explored and effectively brought to a resolution.
“I had a positive experience with Victoria Smith, via the Norfolk Community Foundation's ProHelp scheme. I was booked to arrange a chat to discuss the recruitment of Directors to my not-for-profit organisation. Victoria was really helpful and offered lots of useful suggestions, and I came away with a clear plan to make it happen” Read the full review
The most important consideration for any company on this matter, is to remember that prevention is far better than trying to find a resolution after the event.
Employers should do all they can to reasonably protect staff from sexual harassment and to prevent an incident taking place within the organisation.
Managers need to be fully aware of what is meant by sexual harassment. Too often, there is a failure to appreciate that anything which violates a person’s dignity – be that intended or not – is sexual harassment.
Alternatively, it could be considered sexual harassment where an intimidating or offensive or humiliating environment is created – again, whether intended or not.
I want to stress that the law protects both employees and workers, contractors, and also job applicants, under the Equality Act 2010.
While it might be assumed that the perpetrator of a specific ‘unwanted behaviour’ is the person to blame, it should be noted that employers have a duty of care, and therefore can be considered liable.
Employers must remember that if they have failed in their duty of care to an employee, this could be seen as a breach of contract. Equally, the employer may be seen as responsible for the actions of their managers and employees and be found to be vicariously liable for such harmful actions.
If an employee gets to the point where they feel they have had no choice but to resign because of behaviour toward them, this could indeed be grounds for a case of constructive unfair dismissal.
We recommend all companies invest appropriate time in establishing clear policies and processes around issues like sexual harassment in the workplace, creating a culture of equality, dignity and respect, and that they clearly communicate expectations, how to raise concerns and consequences in terms of undesirable behaviour to all staff.
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