Sexual harassment at work seems to have become an epidemic. According to a recent BBC survey, ‘a third of women are harassed at work.’  For all the progress that has been made on achieving equality, sexual harassment has the potential to undermine it all.

Is it really that common?

According to the TUC a huge 53% of women are said to have been subject to sexual harassment at work. Most of them have admitted to not reporting the harassment.  The guilty party themselves may not consider their actions as sexual harassment, with the term ‘banter’ often being used to describe their words and actions.

Is it just women who are being harassed?

Although the primary target of harassment has been women, figures show the number of men being sexually harassed at work is rising. While many have suffered in silence, movements such as #MeToo have encouraged victims to step forward. And many of them are beginning to do just that.

What is sexual harassment at work?

According to the Equality Act, sexual harassment at work is any unwanted behaviour that is of a sexual nature or that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive. Or that it is related to the rejection of unwelcome advances.

How should victims respond?

Many victims of harassment are fearful of coming forward. They may fear they won’t be believed or the harasser may be their boss.  The advice is to attempt to resolve the matter informally but if it continues, or the informal approach is not appropriate it is best to inform a manager and decide whether to raise a formal grievance.

Victims often maintain a diary of when and where the harassment took place and any witnesses present.

What can the law do?

Where a grievance doesn’t produce results, a claim to an employment tribunal for sexual harassment can be brought within three months of the last act in a chain of sexual harassment. See our pages on sex discrimination and  tribunal hearings  for more details.

By Samuel Tahir

Image used under CC courtesy of Y-Lee