The issue of sexual harassment has been played out in the media during the last couple of years with allegations made against former high profile individuals including but not limited to Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Savile.
It therefore comes as no surprise that according to a recent survey by Prospect Union, which represents skilled workers from a range of industries, 35% of women have reported sexual harassment in the workplace, such as comments and unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, as well as inappropriate physical contact.
Mike Clancy, Prospect’s General Secretary said this shows sexual harassment is “endemic and takes place in all parts of the economy”.
Prospect’s statistics go hand in hand with evidence being collected by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee’s Inquiry into harassment in the workplace.
Employers should note that they will be vicariously liable for any acts of harassment by any of its employees against a fellow employee during employment.
Any claim of harassment could be costly for a business, not just financially, but also non-financial damage, such as the impact on a Company’s reputation, the time taken out of the business to address the claim and the stress of having to defend such a claim.
All employers have a legal duty to ensure their employees are not harassed at work. This includes harassment outside of the workplace, including work-related social events. If an allegation of harassment is made or suspected, an employer must take reasonable steps to stop the harassment, otherwise the employee could be entitled to bring a tribunal claim against the business for harassment, as well as potentially resigning and claiming constructive dismissal.
In the circumstances, it is advisable to implement and follow a Disciplinary Procedure to investigate any harassment allegations, following which depending on the findings of the investigation, disciplinary action could be taken against the relevant employee.