What is sexual harassment in the context of employment?

Determining what constitutes sexual harassment can be rather subjective and it is often difficult for an employer to tackle issues concerning this sensitive area. Needless to say, the victims of sexual harassment can be women or men, homosexual and heterosexual, and those who have undergone or are undergoing gender reassignment.

All forms of sexual harassment are prohibited under the Equality Act 2010 which defines harassment as: “Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

Some examples of sexual harassment are:

●    unwelcome comments or jokes of a sexual nature
●    unwanted physical contact with someone or invading their personal space
●    asking someone for sexual favours
●    leering at someone’s body
●    displaying offensive materials – whether physical or digital
●    sending offensive emails or messages (eg. with a link to pornography etc)
●    using sexually explicit language

Implementing a policy to tackle sexual harassment

It’s a good idea for employers to provide a harassment and bullying policy to their members of staff, which clearly sets out the types of behaviour which are considered unacceptable and which could result in disciplinary action. This should also outline the steps which can be taken by any employees who feel they are being sexually harassed or are concerned about other members of staff.

The employment law team at CH Legal  can help you draft or update your harassment and bullying procedure, to ensure it reflects the latest regulations. We can also advise you on the best way to tackle sexual harassment issues or any claims you might face, providing you with representation at an employment tribunal if necessary. To find out more, get in touch with Caroline Tomlinson or call 0845 4786 354.