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Home > News > Harassment in the workplace: what do I do?

Harassment in the workplace: what do I do?

31 March 2021 | Nick Jones

Being harassed, whether that be verbally, physically, or even digitally, whilst at work is something that no employee should ever have to experience. However, it is unfortunate that issues of harassment still do occur in the modern workplace today.

In a survey conducted by the Everyday Sexism Project and Trades Union Congress had found that 52% of women (out of 1,500 surveyed) had experienced unwanted sexual behaviours at work, from groping to inappropriate jokes. [1]

With the majority of staff now working from home there has been a significant change in the way in which people are communicating. Many companies are now encouraging their teams to communicate via video conferencing such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Whilst this mode of communication can be very effective during these challenging times, it can also have its negative effects.

Working from home can also encourage a sense of informality, with employees feeling less constrained by the social and physical aspects of the office environment. Video calling can be intrusive and allows others to get a glimpse into the homes and personal lives of others. There is also the possibility of more informal and unmonitored messaging going unnoticed by organisations which in turn can increase opportunities for harassment.

Harassment in the workplace or online (during working hours) is specifically considered unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

If I am a victim of harassment, what can I do?

  • Seek to sort the problem out informally first if possible. In some cases, the person who has upset you may not realise the effects or their words or actions. Explain how their behaviour has made you feel and ask them to stop.
  • Speak to someone at work who you feel comfortable with, for example your boss, manager, or HR representative.
  • Keep a diary or a record of the bullying or harassment. Include dates, times, witnesses, any evidence (e.g., emails or screenshots) and describe how it made you feel.
  • If informal measures are not working you should consider raising a formal grievance, that way your employer will have to investigate the issue you have raised.
  • Consider taking early legal advice about your options.
  • Raise a claim in an employment tribunal (claims need to be raised within 3 months or less from the last act of harassment).

How liable are employers for the actions of their staff?

Employers are legally responsible for the acts of their employees carried out during their employment; this is known as vicarious liability. This is covered in section 109 and section 110 of the Equality Act 2010.

It is important to note that this rule only applies if the employee accused has acted inappropriately during their course of employment, for example when doing their job, carrying out company business, or acting on behalf of their employer. This includes work-related events or business trips and even social events organised by your employer (like a Christmas party or work dinner).

If you have been harassed during work by one of your colleagues or managers, you can make a claim in an employment tribunal against both your employer and the individual (usually the claim will be against your employer).

Your employer may be able to avoid liability if they are able to demonstrate that they have taken the necessary precautions to prevent harassment. However, you are able to continue your claim against your harasser personally.

How can GL Law help?

Our expert team have years of experience, so have almost certainly dealt with similar situations to the one you are facing many times. We will explore all the options available to you, helping you determine a course of action that fits your circumstances and personal priorities.

If you decide to make an employment tribunal claim, we can offer strong experience in handling Employment Tribunal proceedings and appeals. Our team can provide the robust arguments, skilled judgment and lateral thinking need to prepare your case and achieve the best available outcome.

We don’t just take care of the legal side – we take care of you.

Specialist employment law solicitors

If you are a victim of harassment within the workplace and are in need of legal assistance, please get in contact with one of our expert employment solicitors today on 0117 906 9400 or email hello@gl.law

 

[1] https://www.safeline.org.uk/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-is-found-to-affect-over-half-of-uk-women/

[2] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/third-woman-dress-sexier-make-up-video-calls-work-home-a4506266.html

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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