7 Steps for Managing Harassment in the Workplace

Hannah Williamson

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08 Oct 2020

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Unfortunately, harassment in the workplace is still a serious problem in the UK. Protecting employee is one of your main duties as an employer.

To help you safeguard your workforces, we’ve put together 7 helpful steps for managing harassment in the workplace.

7 Steps for Managing Harassment

1. Know what Harassment is and Who it Applies to

Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic that, intentionally or unintentionally, has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive working environment. Each person has the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable.

This means If an individual finds certain behaviour unacceptable they have the right to say so. And, their right to do so must be respected. People can be subjected to harassment on a wide variety of grounds. These include sex, sexual orientation, race, disability, age and religious beliefs.

2. Communicate ‘Zero Tolerance’ to your Employees

Inform employees ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ acceptable conduct and behaviour in the workplace. Remind them of the possible consequences of harassment. Remember, their actions could be considered gross misconduct. If they commit gross misconduct, you can consider a summary dismissal.

It may be that they are unaware that their actions are harassing someone.

Examples of harassment include:

  • Offensive jokes,
  • Lewd comments,
  • Unwanted physical contact,
  • Offensive pictures,
  • Speculation about someone’s private life,
  • Threats of sexual violence
  • Deliberately isolating a colleague.

3. Equal Opportunities and Diversity Training

Provide this training and ensure it is repeated regularly. This will familiarise employees with your company’s policies. It’s important for employees to understand that different behaviour is acceptable in work than in a social setting.

4. Be Accessible and Vigilant

Encourage employees to report any behaviour they believe to be harassment. Their line manager should be the first point of contact.

Managers should remain alert and tackle any inappropriate behaviour immediately. Don’t dismiss inappropriate workplace behaviour as “the norm”.

5. Investigate the Complaint

You must follow a set process and deal with any harassment complaint quickly, without delay. Even if you feel that there is no genuine complaint or no substance to a complaint, you should not ignore it.

View our 8 Top Tips for investigating a complaint of Harassment.

6. Have a disciplinary procedure in place

Part-way through the investigation you may find there is no substance to the complaint. If this happens, you shouldn’t just drop the case there and then. Arrange a meeting with complainant and explain your findings.

However, if the allegations are well founded, you need to take a different approach. they should be dealt with in accordance with your business’ disciplinary procedure.

View our 5 Disciplinary Procedure Essentials for cases of Harassment.

7. Support the Complainant

It is important for the complainant to be kept informed of the situation. Reassure them that you’re taking their concerns seriously and are addressing them. It’s not appropriate to confirm the sanction imposed. However, they do need to know that the matter has been dealt with appropriately. You should also look at ways to support the complainant moving forward.

Please note that if the complainant has raised the complaint as a formal grievance, the process must be followed and concluded in full. This remains the case even if they go off sick during the process. You, or a manager, should maintain contact and reassure the complainant that their concerns are being taken seriously. Conversations should also take place in terms of how the company can help or support them in returning to work.

Expert support

With unrivalled experience in the industry, Croner’s Employment Law advisors are some of the most renowned and knowledgeable professionals in their respective fields. If you are currently managing a case of this nature and would like guidance from a Croner expert please call 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Hannah Williamson is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 10 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Manufacturing Industry.

Working for a Global manufacturer provided Hannah with the opportunity to work in America and across Europe supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Hannah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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