First it was Hollywood, then Westminster and now the issue of managing sexual harassment in the workplace is spreading across all sectors and industries. As a result, Verisona Law’s Head of Employment, Sue Ball, is calling on employers to ensure they have robust procedures in place for handling inappropriate behaviour from staff.
‘This really is the tip of the iceberg’ says employment expert, Sue Ball, when asked about the recent media coverage of sexual harassment in the workplace. ‘Even if the issue falls from the headlines, which it shows no signs of doing any time soon, people who have been affected will now be assured of its severity, find the strength to come forward and businesses must be prepared for difficult and delicate situations that will require the utmost sensitivity and compassion.’
People who have been subjected to inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, whether verbal or physical, are protected by the Equality Act 2010 and are entitled to bring claims to an employment tribunal for compensation if their employers do not handle the matter properly.
Sue goes on to explain ‘The issue is not necessarily new, and the companies I work with already take matters of inappropriate behaviour very seriously, but it has been brought into very sharp focus in light of media attention and there will be an inevitable increase in claims of sexual harassment and discrimination.’
To that end, Sue has released her Top 5 Tips for a business’ attention in light of recent events. She recommends companies ensure:
- they have an HR department within, or facility alongside the organisation that can effectively deal with issues regarding inappropriate workplace behaviour
- the company has an official policy on workplace behaviour
- staff have a discreet, confidential channel of communication to raise any issue or concern.
- policies and procedures are highly visible to all staff (this can be in handbooks, posters in communal areas and regularly referred to in staff bulletins)
all line managers responsible for other employees are fully briefed and receive regular training on how to appropriately receive, manage and support any issue brought to them by a member of their staff
‘The most efficient, harmonious and productive workplaces are where people feel safe, respected and work together as a team,’ says Sue. ‘It can be obvious when an individual pierces that atmosphere with their behaviour, but there are instances when people feel too embarrassed, intimidated and unsure about their options and therefore hide those feelings.