Creating a workplace environment that is free from sexual harassment is not only a legal obligation but also morally imperative. In the UK, the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace is taken very seriously, and organisations should take proactive steps both to try to prevent it and also to address allegations in the correct way. There is a consultation going through Parliament which seeks to create a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

In this article, we offer some guidance on essential steps that employers can take to promote a safe and respectful workplace culture.

Step 1: Establish a robust anti-harassment policy.

In an effort to prevent sexual harassment, a well-crafted anti-harassment policy would be recommended. This policy should be comprehensive, clearly defining what constitutes sexual harassment and providing real-life examples to help employees understand the boundaries. Make the policy easily accessible through employee handbooks or dedicated company communication channels.

Step 2: Raise awareness through training.

Educating employees about the significance of a harassment-free workplace is important. Regular training sessions should be conducted to ensure everyone understands the policy, recognises inappropriate behaviour, and knows how to report any incidents.

Step 3: Encourage open dialogue.

To address sexual harassment effectively it is helpful to encourage open communication between employees and management. Establish and inform employees of avenues for reporting any incidents, such as a designated HR representative. This ensures that victims or witnesses feel safe and supported when coming forward.

Step 4: Carry out thorough investigations.

If an incident is reported, swift and impartial investigations are essential and must be kept confidential. Appoint trained individuals to carry out these investigations, adhering to established protocols. Treat each report seriously and take appropriate action based on the findings. It is Important to keep an open mind whilst dealing with allegations of sexual harassment to ensure that both accounts are fully considered.

Step 5: Enforce consequences fairly.

Enforcing consequences across the business sends a strong message that harassment will not be tolerated but only if, based on your reasonable investigations, you believe the sexual harassment has taken place. Although outcomes may vary from a warning, up to an employee’s dismissal, it is important to be consistent when deciding the action that will be taken.

Step 6: Provide comprehensive support.

Create a support system for victims and witnesses of harassment. Offer access to counselling services, resources, and information. Employees need to know that the organisation is committed to their well-being and is ready to provide help when needed.

Step 7: Lead by exemplary conduct.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping workplace culture. Executives, managers, and supervisors should lead by example, exhibiting respectful behaviour and upholding the anti-harassment policy. When employees witness their managers adhering to these principles, it creates a culture of respect and accountability.

Step 8: Review the policy regularly.

Periodically review and refine the anti-harassment policy and procedures to ensure their effectiveness. Stay aware of changes in workplace dynamics and challenges to help maintain an environment where all employees feel safe and valued.

How we can help:

The battle against sexual harassment in the workplace demands commitment from employers at all levels. If you need legal assistance with implementing policies on sexual harassment, advice around procedures when dealing with a complaint, advice regarding an existing complaint or training for your employees or management team, contact the Employment team at Backhouse using the contact information below.

Tel:          01245 893400
Visit:       17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.