Workplace harassment is behaviour that makes an employee feel intimidated or offended. In the UK it is an offence under the Equality Act 2010. We've some tips on how to stop it.
The scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein demonstrated all too well why some women feel they should stay silent when they are being harassed in the workplace.
His fall from grace came after the New York Times published an explosive report detailing decades of sexual assault and harassment allegations against him - claims that Weinstein continues to vehemently deny. From which was born the now famous #metoo movement.
Such abuse of power is not confined to the elite. Sadly, this type of harassment occurs in every aspect of society and the workplace.
TUC research figures:
- A majority (52%) of women had experienced inappropriate behaviour at work, such as groping, sexual advances and inappropriate jokes
- 2 in 3 LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace
- But most alarmingly of all, that 4 out of 5 experiencing harassment don't report it
To address these issues the TUC has started its own #ThisIsNotWorking campaign.
It's worth remembering that you don't need to be at your workplace to suffer harassment as highlighted by Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) guidance.
Type of workplace harassment
Often workplace harassment is conflated with sexual harassment, but there are many types of harassment - remember, it is anything making an employee feel intimidated or offended.
- Discriminatory harassment - targeting those identified by protected characteristics
- Bullying - including critical remarks and social exclusion
- Workplace violence - often physical assaults on public-facing staff
- Abuse of power - excessive or demeaning demands
- Psychological harassment - social isolation, belittling opinions
- Cyberbullying - sharing gossip and humiliating information, or direct messaging
- Retaliation - seeking revenge in response to a perceived slight, including a complaint
- Sexual harassment - unwanted sexual advances, conduct or behaviour
- Third-party harassment - bullying from those outside of an organisation
Workplace harassment advice for employees
- Keep a record of all harassment incidents - this includes recording the name of the person harassing you, their position within the company and the type of harassment that is being inflicted upon you. Be specific about times, dates, locations and the names of any witnesses to the incident. Basically, gather as much information and evidence as you can, as this will only help your case.
- Get witnesses - talk to your colleagues and make sure they'll back you up by corroborating your evidence. If you're being bullied or harassed, there is a good chance that others are too. Team up and help each other.
- Stay calm and professional - don't make any hasty decisions or do anything irrational. Take the time to collect your evidence. Then, when the time is right to go to your superior, you'll be more articulate and able to present a better case for yourself.
- Arrange a meeting with your supervisor or a representative from the HR team - take your record of incidents and any witnesses to them with you, and practice what you're going to say before the meeting. If your harasser happens to be your supervisor, contact HR or your supervisor's superiors.
- Be sure to follow up your complaint - the last thing you need is for the harassment to continue and your complaint to fall on deaf ears. If you see that nothing is being done, you have the right to take this further and go higher up the chain. Don't stop until your complaint is being dealt with and actions are being taken.
Workplace harassment advice for employers
The EHRC suggests a 7-step approach for employers to stop workplace harassment:
- Develop an effective anti-harassment policy
- Engage your staff
- Assess and mitigate risks in the workplace
- Think about reporting systems
- Deliver anti-harassment, equality and diversity training
- Know what to do when a complaint is made
- Know what to do if dealing with sexual harassment and third parties.
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