In July 2018, the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons published a report on sexual harassment in the workplace, which sought to highlight the issue of harassment, in an attempt to bring it out into the open as a matter to be discussed, with a view to eventually prevent it from happening at all.
That report noted (according to a ComRes poll) that up to 53% of women and 20% of men (and 37% of all employees surveyed) had experienced workplace sexual harassment, and shockingly, 10% of women who had been harassed said that they had been sexually assaulted.
It is not clear whether or to what extent the harassment was reported to the employer. However, the Report noted that part of the problem was that employers use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which effectively prevented instances of sexual harassment from being made public.
This led the Women and Equalities Committee to start a separate inquiry specifically into the use of NDAs, and that report was published earlier this year in June 2019. The Committee heard evidence that widespread use of NDAs within employment law was preventing the proper investigation of unlawful discrimination in the workplace.
Against this backdrop a legal charity, ‘Rights of Women’, announced earlier this month that they are setting up the first and (currently) only legal helpline offering free legal advice to women facing sexual harassment at work, such as:
-What behaviour constitutes sexual harassment;
– How to make a complaint to an employer;
– How to bring a claim at an Employment Tribunal; and
– Advice on settlement and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
The telephone number is 020 7490 0152, and the line is currently open on Mondays between 6pm and 8pm and on Tuesdays between 5pm and 7pm.
The funding for this helpline has come from a number of sources, including Time’s Up UK’s Justice and Equality Fund, members of the public and notable donations from celebrities such as Emma Watson, who donated £1 million.
This is an important initiative as it is seeking to capitalise on the momentum generated by the #MeToo movement and seeks to get the message out to the public both that this is an important issue that needs to be discussed and that there is help available.
Sexual harassment is defined as ‘unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which does any of the following:
Violates your dignity;
Makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated; or
Creates a hostile or offensive environment.
It is harassment for someone to be subjected to any one of the above.
A violation of dignity occurs whenever someone feels as though they have not been treated with due respect. In terms of sexual harassment., that would happen when someone feels disrespected as a result of something sex-related at work.
It is notable that the focus for this is on how the behaviour makes the victim feel – it is not enough that harassers did not intend their actions or thought that they were engaging in ‘banter’.
Whenever people feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, that would constitute harassment, especially if they have been treated less favourably due to their gender or because they have rejected advances or have been dismissed for doing so.
Every employer should have a policy which clearly states who complaints should be made to, such as a manager or HR department.
If you have experienced any of the issues above, please get in touch with us and we will assist you in whatever way we can.
At Kalra Legal Group, we are particularly focused on employees who are facing discrimination at work, especially women – whether that is due to issues surrounding maternity, sexual harassment or any other protected characteristic. We believe that the best way of eradicating sexual harassment in the workplace is to get people talking about it so that there is awareness of where the line is and when it has been crossed.
If you would like to discuss this further with a sexual discrimination solicitor, please call us on 0330 221 0684 or email us on [email protected].
Navigating Workplace Harmony: A Guide to the ACAS Code of Practice
January 2024 Newsletter
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