How to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace – and how big a problem is it? Popstar Taylor Swift certainly didn’t shake it off 

Popstar Taylor Swift recently won a lawsuit after a radio DJ groped her during a photo opportunity.
The court heard that David Mueller, 54, groped Taylor’s bum in 2013 while she was on tour. Swift told Mueller’s boss, and the DJ was fired from his $150k (£116k) job.
He sued Taylor for $3m (£2.3m) in damages and lost income, but a judge later threw the case out. Swift countersued for one dollar (77p).
Speaking in court, Swift said: “My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organisations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”
So, continuing Swift’s efforts to draw attention to this problem, let’s answer some common questions on the topic…
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The law says it’s sexual harassment if someone means to, or has the effect of:
  • Violating a person’s dignity.
  • Or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment.
What does sexual harassment look like?
Sexual harassment can include, but is not limited to:
  • Sexual comments or jokes,
  • Unwelcome sexual advances,
  • Unwanted touching,
  • Sexual assault,
  • Displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature,
  • Sending emails with sexual content.
How big a problem is it?
In a Trade Union Congress (TUC) survey in 2016, more than half (52%) of women, and 63% of young women said they had experienced sexual harassment. Of these women, 79% didn’t report it to their employer.
Who can be sexually harassed?
Anybody. Women, men, straight, LGBTI+.
Anybody can be the victim of sexual harassment and anybody can be the perpetrator.
As a manager, how should I handle a complaint of sexual harassment?
You must take it very seriously. Your company will have a policy for handling grievances, and you should follow this. It is a fundamental employment right that no-one should suffer sexual harassment. If it occurs, and you do not handle it appropriately, your company will be exposed to the risk of financial and reputational damage, alongside the suffering of the victim.
For help and advice on handling a sexual harassment grievance appropriately, or improving workplace culture to minimise the risk of sexual harassment occurring, call The HR Dept.

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Ian heads up the HR Dept Edinburgh & the Lothians team. The HR Dept specialises in helping SMEs with everything to with employment, through a local and personal service delivering practical and pragmatic advice and support. With nearly 30 years HR experience, Ian has a wealth of experience in helping businesses to ensure success through their people, be legally compliant and handle tricky people issues. As a business owner himself, Ian understands the challenges that come with running and growing a business. He is known for his ability to explain complex concepts simply and to make learning fun and enjoyable.