Recently, discussions surrounding sexual harassment, particularly within the workplace, has gained significant traction. At Hallidays HR, we recognise the paramount importance of fostering safe and respectful work environments, free of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is defined as: any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature and includes unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment can violate someone’s dignity, make them feel unsafe or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

‘Of a sexual nature’ can cover verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct including unwelcome sexual advances, inappropriate touching, forms of sexual assault, sexual jokes, displaying pornographic photographs or drawings, or sending emails with material of a sexual nature (this list is not exhaustive).

As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring that employees do not face harassment in their workplace. You have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to protect your employees and will be liable if you fail to do so.

How to combat sexual harassment

There are a number of ways to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure the culture doesn’t allow for it:

  • Implement a policy.
  • Provide regular training sessions.
  • Promote a safe reporting procedure.
  • Immediately correct actions.
  • Encourage open conversations about sexual harassment.
  • Remove or reduce risks of sexual harassment to make sure your workplace is safe.
  • Offer support to anyone involved in a sexual harassment complaint.

Impact of sexual harassment

The effects of sexual harassment can be damaging to both an employee and you, and have a knock-on impact to many different factors, such as:

Mental and physical conditions

Victims of sexual harassment often suffer emotional and psychological issues, including depression and anxiety. They often experience low self-esteem and other physical health problems, such as loss of sleep and appetite, and headaches.

Professional issues

Harassment of a sexual nature can also impact on job performance and career trajectory. Fear and decreased confidence can cause some people to withdraw from the workplace and disengage from co-workers. They are more likely to be late, absent, distracted, and neglect duties.

Decreased productivity

Sexual harassment is also damaging to a business. When a workplace is infected with discrimination and harassment, everyone suffers. The hostility created by harassment causes absenteeism, low morale, gossip, animosity, stress, and anxiety among employees. Low productivity is more common in environments with high rates of sexual harassment. Victims and witnesses of sexual harassment are more likely to quit, leading to high employee turnover and increased hiring and training costs.

Support

When someone has been a victim of sexual harassment, it is vital to sign post them to the right areas for support. Equally so, it’s as important that as an employer, you know where to get help and guidance on dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Victims Support is a sexual harassment and abuse charity: www.victimsupport.org.uk;
  • ACAS Helpline offers advice for employees if they have experienced harassment at work: 0300 123 1100
  • Hallidays HR’s training sessions offer awareness and understanding of issues like sexual harassment.

How Hallidays HR can help:

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email hr@hallidayshr.co.uk. And of course, visit our LinkedIn page.