Signs of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a regrettably prevalent issue faced by many men and women in the UK, in and outside of the workplace.
It doesn’t always occur in blatantly obvious forms but can still have an enormous, detrimental impact on victims, especially when the working environment seems to accept and condone such behaviour.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Offering promotions, pay increases or other benefits in return for sexual favours would be a clear example of sexual harassment, and unwanted physical contact is one of the most commonly-cited form of sexual harassment at work. But what about less common and harder-to-spot instances?
Not all cases of sexual harassment are clear as day. Behaviour that can be seen by one as “joking”, “funny” or “informal” could be construed as sexual harassment by others. If behaviour is unwanted and becomes persistent it will likely be classed as sexual harassment.
Examples of such behaviour include:
- Touching someone when they do not wish to be touched and are clearly made uncomfortable
- Sending unwanted flirty or sexually suggestive notes, emails or texts
- Asking personal questions about someone’s sexual preferences, history or orientation
- Making inappropriate comments about someone’s body or clothing
- Following someone excessively around the workplace without a work-related need to do so
- Repeatedly making improper advances by for example asking a co-worker out on dates after being told not to
- Complimenting someone or someone’s ‘features’ excessively
- Whistling, cat calling or using suggestive gestures
- Using words to describe someone that are sexually suggestive, offensive and belittling
Have you experienced this type of behaviour in the workplace, and has your employer failed to act accordingly? We are here for you.
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When Does “a Bit of Banter” Become Sexual Harassment?
A report published by the TUC in 2016 shows how prevalent sexual harassment is across the UK, with as many as 52 percent of female respondents stating they have experienced workplace sexual harassment of some kind.
The research also shows that for every five women who experienced workplace harassment, only four went on to report it. Out of all the respondents who did report the incident, only a mere six percent felt that their complaint was taken seriously and dealt with adequately.
Many individuals claimed they were fearful to take action because they didn’t want to be labelled as a spoilsport, nor did they want their career to suffer in any way.
Humour is important to any workplace, it shapes your company culture and keeps the environment light-hearted. However, if jokes are leaving someone feeling hurt, embarrassed or uncomfortable in any way, you should neither partake nor accept it.
The Impact of Long-Term Sexual Harassment
Being harassed, sexually or otherwise, is humiliating and uncomfortable in any situation.
Being harassed at work can make an employee feel reluctant to come in, feel wary of certain colleagues or doubtful about their own self-worth and ability. They can feel frightened and belittled and as a result suffer from stress, depression and other forms of mental illness.
Harassment in the workplace can seriously impede on the career of the victims and witnesses as well, especially in companies where such behaviour is more likely to be seen as ‘banter’ and therefore acceptable.
Damage to Career
In many cases the harasser is in a position of authority, leaving victims with few options on how to proceed after being subjected to sexual harassment from their superior. In some scenarios they have no choice but to decide between standing up to – and stopping the sexual harassment or staying in their job.
The work performance of anyone experiencing sexual harassment will likely worsen, as will workplace relations and a person’s career outlook, placing a person’s career in a further negative spiral.
In situations where the harasser is not one individual but rather a number of colleagues or managers the victim could feel considerably more isolated and helpless. Working in an environment where sexism, discrimination or misogyny is normalised and regarded as ‘light-hearted’ can feel inescapable and the victim may rightfully fear that their complaints will only exacerbate the poor treatment or cost them their job.
When victims of harassment are treated so unfairly, they may feel as though the only reasonable solution is to quit their job. In turn likely causing further stress, shame and financial pressure.
Damage to Emotional and Physical Health
Workplace harassment understandably leaves a mark on the emotional, and sometimes physical, health of the victim.
Regular cases of humiliation or isolation can lead to anxiety and symptoms of depression, as well as significantly impact self-esteem. In the long-term, these issues can develop into physical pains such as regular headaches, raised blood pressure and heart problems.
Does this sound like you? Then don’t suffer in silence, let us help you today.Get in touch
What Can You Do
If you experienced sexual harassment or abuse at your place of work you have a legal right to make a claim against that employer at the employment tribunal.
Firstly, you should always raise a grievance with your manager or HR department if you can, allowing the company to solve the issues internally without causing you further stress and pain.
However, this will not always be possible. You may only be able to speak to the person harassing you, or you may feel unsafe speaking up. If you cannot file a grievance or if your grievance was not handled appropriately your next step is to seek legal assistance.
Our employment solicitors can advise you on a no-win-no-fee basis on what legal rights and protection you have, and support you through any legal proceedings and negotiations if this becomes necessary.Get in touch
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