The TUC has published a report in to sexual harassment in the workplace. The survey of 1,500 women found that over half (52%) have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of those, 79% did not tell their employers. Young women are the most affected with nearly two thirds of the 18-24 years olds surveyed saying they have been sexually harassed at work. 

So what is sexual harassment?

The Equality Act 2010 outlaws sexual harassment which is defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. As the TUC report outlines, it can take many forms including inappropriate comments about a colleague’s sex life, unwelcome sexual advances, touching, jokes, sending emails with material of a sexual nature amongst many others.

What can you do to prevent it?

It is important to have a clear anti-harassment policy in place which sets out the procedure for dealing with complaints. The policy should be communicated to employees so they know how to raise a complaint. Employers may also want to think about training managers and senior employees to recognise harassment issues.

Employers should treat any complaints about sexual harassment seriously and investigate them thoroughly. It is important not to dismiss any concerns as just “banter” or to make excuses for someone whose behaviour is unacceptable.

Failing to deal with complaints of harassment can lead not only to tribunal claims but also the risk of increased sickness absence rates, reduced productivity and a de-motivated workforce.  

The report from the TUC suggests that employers still have a way to go to address harassment issues in the workplace, particularly for younger workers. Employers need to work harder to encourage staff to come to them with any concerns so they can be addressed at an early stage.