Would You Recognise Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace?

Submitted by Mark on 26th October 2016

sexual harassment in workplace; people management; HR;

A recent report from the TUC, in association with the Everyday Sexism Project, found that 52% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The statistics are shocking, and they demonstrate that whilst we may have come a long way in recent years, there are still serious problems that are deeply engrained into workplace cultures.

Reputable employers know that they have a responsibility to stamp out unacceptable behaviour, but what does this look like in practical terms? 

Don’t ignore ‘banter’ 

Most workplaces have their fair share of jokes and lighthearted jibes. It’s vital though that you recognise that it’s never okay to make ‘flippant’ comments. Even if the person making the remarks doesn’t think that they’re offensive or serious, this is no defense. 

The research found that 32% of women have been on the receiving end of unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature, so it’s quite likely that this may have happened within your business. The stance that you need to take here is clear. Tackle inappropriate behaviour head-on, regardless of the intention. 

Look beneath the surface 

You may be thinking that these types of problems happen in other workplaces and sexual harassment isn’t a problem in your business. After all, surely your employees would come to you if they were facing issues? Well, not necessarily. Shockingly, 4 out of 5 women who have experienced sexual harassment did not report it. 

The reasons why are somewhat obvious. Often, the perpetrator holds a higher position, and the victim worries about losing their job. So before you jump to the assumption that everything’s fine in your business, take a closer look at what might be happening. 

Reinforce your standards 

Of course, it’s easy to argue that grown adults in a civilised society shouldn’t have to be told that sexual harassment is wrong. As an employer, though, you have a responsibility to make your standards absolutely crystal clear. Now could be a good time to roll out refresher training, and ensure that your staff have a strong understanding of their role in stamping out unacceptable behaviour. 

Be sure that employees know exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, communicate this in a robust policy, and outline how you will facilitate the process of dealing with problems. 

Dropping the ball when it comes to tackling sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t an option. Neglect your duties as an employer, and you could face employment tribunals, a fractured workforce, and a seriously damaged reputation. 

If you’re concerned about issues in your workforce, or you’re eager to ensure that you’re meeting the mark, then we may be able to help you. Give us a call on 01604 763494 or contact us via the contact form on the right of this page for initial advice and to find out what your next steps need to be.