Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Deborah Manktelow
18 Apr 2018

Over half of women experienced workplace harassment in 2017, according to the Trades Union Congress.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) thinks it’s time for change.

The EHRC wants to force employers to:

  • publish their sexual harassment policy
  • show the steps they take to implement the policy in their business
  • follow a statutory code of practice when dealing with a harassment allegation

It's Time For Change

Here are 8 ways to get yourself ready for change:

1. Have an anti-harassment policy and make sure employees know about it

Familiarise yourself with your policies so that you can take swift action. Employees will feel that the policy has integrity if you demonstrate familiarity and stick to the steps. Train your employees on your anti-harassment stance and train your managers on dealing with allegations.

2. Understand what sexual harassment is and know the signs

Sexual harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. Be wary of “banter” - one person’s banter is another person’s harassment. Make sure you can recognise the signs - is someone more withdrawn than normal? Avoiding social events? Performance dipping? Suddenly having more time off sick?

3. Break the “culture of silence”

Be visible to your staff and encourage frank conversations. Don’t wait for a complaint to be made. If you think you spot the signs of harassment, sensitively approach the employee Consider allocating one named person to receive harassment complaints.

4. Take all complaints seriously

Laughing off a complaint could be damaging. If informal comments are made, sensitively probe the employee further. Remember male employees can be victims of harassment too.

5. Thorough investigation

Complaints should be investigated thoroughly. Consider separating the parties during the investigation. Don’t assume guilt; a complaint does not always mean that harassment/bullying took place.

6. Discipline where necessary

Take disciplinary action against those found to have harassed others, up to an including dismissal.

7. Don’t use yourself as a yardstick

Harassment is about individual perception; there is no standard benchmark. It doesn’t matter that you wouldn’t have been offended by the same comment/behaviour towards you.

8. Just because it happens outside of work does not mean it is not your problem

Work social events are an extension of the workplace. Harassment that takes place during these events needs to be dealt with as if it happened at work.

Speak to an advisor

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

Headshot of Deborah Mantkelow

Deborah Manktelow is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 7 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Construction Industry.

Working for a National provider of Insulation provided Deborah with the opportunity to strategically support Operations across the UK, supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Deborah 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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