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UK Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer
At AWH Solicitors we offer a free 20-minute employment law consultation. Our workplace sexual harassment lawyers are here to advise you on your legal rights and what route to take to get you the compensation you deserve.
What is Sexual Harassment?
- Employees and workers
- Self-employed individuals hired by another company
- Job applicants
To class an act as sexual harassment, it must:
- Violate someone’s dignity, whether intended or not.
- Create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for the victim, whether intended or not.
Sexual harassment is different from harassment related to a person’s protected characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation, or gender reassignment. Someone could experience both types of harassment at the same time or separately.
What Are Examples of Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace can take different forms either online or in-person, physical or verbal. Some examples of sexual harassment are:
- Sexual assault
- Unwanted physical contact and touching
- Receiving unwanted emails or messages with sexual content in
- Your employer or colleague displaying pornographic imagery
- Written or verbal comments of a sexual nature
- Staring or displaying body language in a sexually suggestive manner
- Making offensive sexual comments
Additionally, a lone individual might not always be the only cause of sexual harassment. Sometimes there can be a culture of sexual harassment in a workplace. In this situation, you can still make a complaint for sexual harassment.
Employers have a ‘duty of care’ to protect the well-being of their employees. If an employer is found to not be doing this, it could lead to a serious breach of an employee’s employment contract. As a result, if an employee feels they have no choice but to resign due to a case of sexual harassment, the employer could face a constructive dismissal claim.
What Can You Do if You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment at Work?
There are some steps you can take if you have suffered sexual harassment at work.
Firstly, it is important to make a record of when the incidents first occurred, detailing what happened. This can provide useful if you find it distressing to discuss the experience. If you feel you can do so, you can try to talk to the harasser and ask them to stop. If this does not stop the harassment, there are some further steps you can take to escalate the matter. These are:
Read Through Your Employers Policies
The next step you should take is to read through your employer’s policies on sexual harassment. Therefore, you can be informed of the specific process to follow when addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. The employer’s policies should inform you of who to speak to in the company.
Raise the Issue with your HR Department
If your employer has an HR department, you may want to raise the issue with them. If not, you may want to speak to your line manager. Alternatively, if your line manager is the person harassing you, you may want to speak to their manager.
Raising an Issue Anonymously
Due to the nature of the complaint, some employers will allow you to raise a sexual harassment issue anonymously. This can protect you from any repercussions and victimisation. However, it is worth noting, that making an anonymous complaint can make it difficult for the company to inform you of how they have managed the situation.
If Your Employer Does Not Have a Sexual Harassment Policy
If your employer does not have a sexual harassment policy or procedure, and other less formal ways of addressing the issue have not worked, you can use your employer’s grievance procedures. It is important to make sure you complete the grievance procedure correctly as not doing so could lead to an unsuccessful outcome. Your company should have a grievance policy that you can follow. If your employer acts unreasonably then it may breach the ACAS Code, and therefore increase the value of the Employment Tribunal claim. Additionally, if your employer fails to comply with the grievance process, it can allow you to argue that you are being victimised by your employer, furthering your claim.
If you are unhappy with the result of the grievance you can appeal the outcome.
Before you Make a Claim Against Your Employer
Before you bring your claim to the Employment Tribunal, you will normally need to go through the ‘ACAS Early Conciliation process’ to obtain an ACAS Early Conciliation certificate. It is important to obtain this certificate as it is unlikely for the Employment Tribunal to accept your claim without it.
Your deadline for submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal will normally be extended by the time that you were in the ACAS Conciliation process. We advise you seek legal advice on this matter as it can be a complicated calculation to work out.
Who is Responsible?
Employers should do everything they can to prevent sexual harassment from happening.
Anyone that sexually harasses someone at work is responsible for their own actions, but employers can be responsible too. This is called ‘vicarious liability.’ By law, your employer must do everything in their power to prevent sexual harassment from happening in the workplace.
Making a Claim with a Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer
You must submit your claim to the employment tribunal within three months (minus one day) of when the harassment occurred. The date from which the time limit will start to run may differ depending on the sexual harassment you have experienced.
At any point in your employment, you can make a claim at the Employment Tribunal if you have been sexually harassed at work.
The responsibility lies with the perpetrator, but the employer is also responsible and liable for the conduct of their employee. It doesn’t matter if this has been done with the employer’s knowledge or approval. This is called ‘vicarious liability’ and is covered by the Equality Act 2010. It can also include events that haven’t taken place in the workplace such as nights out and staff parties. As a result, the claim can directly pursue the person who is doing the harassment.
If you receive compensation, the Employment Tribunal can additionally give you a separate award, one from your employer and one from the harasser. Additionally, compensation for sexual harassment can include an award for loss and injury to feelings. There is no cap on the amount of compensation you can receive.
There is additionally an option to claim for harassment under Equality Act. This is because you may be able to link your sexual harassment claim to a sex discrimination claim. Your Employment Solicitor will be able to discuss this with you as it depends on the circumstances of your case.
What Compensation Can You Receive in a Claim for Sexual Harassment?
If your sexual harassment claim is successful in the Employment Tribunal, you can normally pursue the following compensations:
• Any loss of earnings that you have suffered because of the sexual harassment that you have suffered (for example, if you have lost out on a bonus or if you have had to resign because of victimisation).
• Any injury to feelings you have suffered due to harassment.
• Any personal injury that you have suffered (for example, if you have suffered PTSD or depression because of sexual harassment).
• Aggravated damages (for example if there has been particularly bad behaviour on your employer’s part).
The Time Limit of Sexual Harassment Claims
There is a strict time limit on when you can make a sexual harassment claim. You can usually make a claim within three months from the act or last series of linked acts. Firstly, you will need to complete early conciliation with ACAS before starting your claim. The process will aim to reach an agreement without the need to go to an Employment Tribunal. During this time, any time limits will be paused, so completing this process will not affect you making a claim.
As there is a limited window of time to make your claim, it’s important to get advice from your specialist employment law solicitor.
What Happens if You’re Victimised for Making a Tribunal Complaint of Sexual Harassment
If you do any of the following ‘protected acts’ and are then subjected to any form of detriment or dismissal you may be eligible to make a claim for “victimisation” under the Equality Act 2010.
A protected act includes:
• Making or threatening to make an informal complaint about sexual harassment (or any other form of harassment or discrimination) within your organisation.
• Helping a colleague to make a complaint or helping them with their Employment Tribunal claim regarding harassment or discrimination.
• Making or threatening to make an Employment Tribunal claim for discrimination or harassment.
How Our Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyers Can Help Your Claim
Our expert workplace sexual harassment lawyers are available to support you through your claim, making sure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.
Your personal solicitor will guide you through the legal process, choosing the best options to aid in the success of your claim. At AWH, we believe that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious matter and should not be ignored. Therefore, our workplace sexual harassment lawyers will work closely with you to hold those who are responsible for the harassment accountable.
Get in contact with our team of solicitors to start your claim.