Employment Law

Employment Law

Sexual Harassment

What is sexual harassment?

When it comes to Employment Law sexual harassment has a specific definition in the Equality Act 2010. 

It is basically when someone (male or female) engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature with another person, which has the purpose or effect of either: 

(a)    Violating that other person’s dignity, or

(b)   Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other person. 

In deciding whether the conduct does do this you must take into account: 

  • The perception of the person complaining – (so how that person actually felt)
  • The other circumstances of the case
  • Whether it was reasonable for the conduct to have that effect  

There is also second strand of harassment which comes about after a rejection of, or submission to this sort of conduct when, because of that rejection of or submission to the conduct, a person is treated less favourably than he (or she) would have been treated if she (or he) had not rejected or submitted to the conduct. 

Examples of sexual harassment 

The following could all amount to sexual harassment: 

  • Sexual teasing
  • Jokes
  • Sexual looks and gestures
  • Touching
  • Sexual innuendoes or stories
  • Sexual favouritism
  • Pressure for dates or sexual favours
  • Presents or gifts
  • Sexually suggestive or explicit Text messages or emails
  • Spreading rumours about sexuality 

This is not an exhaustive list – there are many things which could amount to sexual harassment. 

What should you do? 

Every employer should have in place a written Anti Harassment and Grievance policies so that everyone in the workplace knows what is and is not acceptable behaviour and so that employees know exactly what to do if they are subjected to sexual harassment at work. 

An employee who is subject to sexual harassment at work may be able to claim constructive dismissal and bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

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