Decisive action against sexual harassment

Large organisations are hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

An independent report found that London Fire Brigade was rife with misogyny, racism and bullying, and the sexual harassment by serving police officers in the Met is well reported.

The latest is McDonald’s, who four years ago had 1,000 sexual harassment claims. They faced even more claims last year and have now signed a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is a company that employs over 110,000 people in the UK, 45 percent of whom are female (although males also experience harassment, the higher proportion is female) and who prides itself on having positive attitudes.

Government action
Following an inquiry that was prompted by the Me Too movement, the Women and Equalities select committee made many recommendations.

The government consulted on four of them:

  1. The introduction of a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation.
  2. How to strengthen and clarify the law in relation to third party harassment.
  3. Whether protection was needed for interns and volunteers.
  4. Whether the time limit for bringing discrimination claims should be extended beyond three months.

Finally, in July 2022, the government committed to making some changes which hopefully will become law in 2023.

We must remember that no matter what the size of business, protection from sexual harassment is already covered by the Equality Act.

This includes harassment from customers and suppliers as well as from managers and colleagues.

How to protect your business and your team
The first thing is to have a robust policy that makes it absolutely clear there is zero tolerance. The policy on its own is not enough. Training managers on how to deal with a complaint is equally important, as is making sure everyone knows that reports through the grievance procedure will be listened to and dealt with appropriately.

Finally, when the assault is verbal do not make the mistake of excusing behaviour as a bit of banter and the complainant oversensitive. An employment tribunal will not accept that.

Read more and get advice from The HR Dept Durham. 

Decisive action against sexual harassment

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