Whether you’ve been physically or verbally assaulted, shrugging sexual harassment off as a bit of banter isn’t the right thing to do — especially when you’re at work.
Despite strict laws prohibiting sexual harassment in any avenue of life, more than half of women have reportedly been sexually harassed in the workplace.
Research conducted by the Trades Union Congress and the Everyday Sexism Project (2016) revealed that more than half (52 per cent) of women, and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of women aged 18-24 years old, said they have experienced sexual harassment at work.
According to Citizen’s Advice, harassment is unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which creates an intimidating, hostile or degrading environment. Emma Wilkinson, Citizens Advice employment expert explains her five steps on what to do if you've been sexually harassed at work.
You could tell your manager, or someone in your HR department. Your employer is required by law to protect you from harassment. If it is your manager who is harassing you, you can tell a more senior staff member. Put what you say in writing and keep a copy.
Keep a diary
Keep a record of what happened to you that you can use as evidence, including copies of texts, emails and social media posts. Note the time, date and location of any incidents, what was said or done, who was involved, if there were any witnesses and evidence of any similar incidents involving other colleagues.
Consider what outcome you want and get advice about your legal rights. Your local Citizens Advice can help and there’s some great information available online. Check www.citizensadvice.org.uk to find out how to contact your local service and for online information. You might want to consider contacting a lawyer directly.
Raise a grievance
If you aren’t satisfied with the action your employer has taken after you’ve raised the problem informally, you may want to escalate it to a more senior staff member, make a formal written complaint or use your organisation’s formal grievance procedure, it they have one. You can get guidance about this from the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100.
Consider an employment tribunal
If you can't solve your problem using a formal grievance procedure, you may want to make a claim to an employment tribunal. There are fees for this but if you’re on a low income you may be able to get these reduced by up to 100 per cent. There are also strict time limits - you've got three months less one day from the date when you were harassed to take action. You can get advice on taking a claim to tribunal, or taking other legal action, from Citizens Advice.