Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / Sexual Harassment: Employers are reminded to get their policies in order
Georgina Hardcastle

HR Consultant - East Sussex (Uckfield)

20th February 2023

In December 2022 a woman who was told to stand up and turn around before being slapped on the bottom with a ruler by her male manager in a staff meeting, settled her sexual harassment case for £90,000. Both the Manager and a male colleague treated the incident as a joke but the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission described it as a shocking case demonstrating the Company’s laddish and toxic culture with little regard for its female employees.

A recent investigation by UN Women UK found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed, with a further 96% not reporting this because of the belief that it would not change anything. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing problem and is too often overlooked and treated as ‘banter’ or a joke.

What can Employers do to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace?

  • Have a policy outlining a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment at work. This policy should be visible, such as on a company intranet, and explained to employees both at their induction and regularly thereafter. The policy must ensure employees know how, and to whom, they can raise their complaints/concerns.
  • Be aware that sexual harassment can be verbal as well as physical. It can also happen out of office hours, such as at work events, by text message or on social media platforms.
  • Be mindful of ‘office banter’. Sharing a joke with a colleague and inappropriate behaviour can lead to someone feeling uncomfortable, even intimidated.
  • Give managers training in how to manage allegations of sexual harassment.
  • Always investigate allegations and seek guidance.

Sexual harassment at Work: Legal changes on the horizon

A proposed new law introduces a new duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and reinstates employer liability for third party harassment. If The Workers Bill completes the parliamentary process in 2023, it is not likely to come into force until earliest, 2024.

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