How do you protect yourself, your business and your staff against sexual harassment claims?

Sexual harassment is a hot topic and barely a day goes passed without the #MeToo movement featuring heavily in the media.

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How do you protect yourself, your business and your staff against sexual harassment claims?

Sexual harassment is a hot topic and barely a day goes passed without the #MeToo movement featuring heavily in the media.

It is a worrying trend. A survey in 2016 found that 52% of all women (and 63% of women aged 18-24 years old) said they have experienced sexual harassment at work. The type of harassment ranged from being subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature to unwanted sexual advances and somewhat unsurprisingly in the vast majority of cases (88%), the perpetrator was male and in nearly one in five cases the perpetrator was either the woman’s line manager or someone with direct authority over them.

We are starting to see the effects of the rising level of complaints within our employment law practice. The number of Employment Tribunals involving sexual harassment claims is growing along with the whistleblowing and settlement agreements which often go hand in hand with a sexual harassment claim.

And the compensation awards are also catching the public’s attention. Only recently a former HR director was awarded more than £830,000 when she brought successful unfair dismissal and sex discrimination claims!

Keebles’ Employment Team recently held a workshop for our clients and contacts that focused on how to deal with sexual harassment issues in the work place and to show employers how to use the statutory defence if they found themselves facing a complaint of harassment.

For us understanding the basics is always the first step in addressing the issue so here is a useful summary of the key ‘take aways’ from the session that we feel will benefit both employers and HR professionals:-

1. Compensation is unlimited and there is no length of service required to bring a claim for sexual harassment and discrimination.

2. To successfully defend a claim as an employer, it is essential to have the following up-to-date and comprehensive policies in place:
• Equal Opportunities;
• Anti-Bullying and Harassment
• Whistleblowing

3. Policies alone are not adequate. Training staff is essential and has to be an ongoing commitment.

4. Employers need to look at their workplace holistically and remember that your obligations extend beyond 9-5, i.e. outside of work as well at work parties and so on.

5. When a complaint is made – act fast! Protect both parties during the investigation and put arrangements in place to keep the victim and offender separated.

At Keebles, we can provide the policies and training required to safeguard your business and staff.

For further details on how we can assist, if you have any queries regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, or if you would like to know more about future events and workshop run by our Employment Team, please contact Charlotte Ollerenshaw at charlotte.ollerenshaw@keebles.com or call Charlotte on 0114 290 6286.

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