Unfortunately workplace harassment is becoming a more common issue, either because it is happening more often or, more likely, because employees are more likely to report incidents to their employer. Having done so they rightly expect action to be taken.
This is a tricky area for employers. Under the Equality Act harassment is defined as unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating another’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The challenge for employers comes in the somewhat subjective nature of the harassment definition and the spectrum of behaviour which might be acceptable to some people in certain settings but considered harassment by others. What is one person’s office banter is another’s harassment and can lead to significant costs to the business.
It is important therefore that employers have comprehensive training and policies and procedures in place. Without them employees can argue that employer’s don’t take these things seriously and perpetrators can state that they were not given guidance on what was acceptable behaviour and what was not.
How can we help you?
Nockolds Employment Lawyers have extensive experience helping employers work through this particularly tricky area of law. As well as providing training courses to staff and management we are able to advise employers who are concerned about possible workplace harassment or who have received a formal complaint.