If you’re on Social Media, you’ll see many people have the status #metoo. The campaign was originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities.
The campaign was reignited in the light of the recent allegations against various Hollywood players to try and show the magnitude of the situation and highlight the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and what you can do if you feel you have been a victim of it.
Stacey Cox, Partner and Head of the Employment Law department at Elliot Mather Solicitors says; “it’s important to understand what constitutes sexual harassment. As with all forms of discrimination, the Equality Act 2010 is the go to piece of legislation. The Act defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, which has the purpose or effect of violating the subject’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the subject.”
Stacey added “while it’s not possible to exhaustively list examples of harassment, this can include suggestive marks, inappropriate touching, e-mails, circulation of pornographic material and jokes about an employee’s personal life.”
“In some circumstances, these comments are passed off as “banter”, but consideration should always be paid as to how they make the recipient feel. “
A recent survey by the Trade Union Congress found that of the 1,500 women surveyed more than half (52%) say they have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. In 20% of those the cases, the perpetrator was the superior of the person surveyed. 79% of women surveyed said that they didn’t report it to their employer.
The current #Metoo campaign is seeing not only women speak out, but men too. Stacey Cox from Elliot Mather Solicitors said “historically the majority of sexual harassment complaints have been made by women against men, but it should be noted that it is possible for sexual harassment to happen to anyone. There are cases of women sexually harassing men, women sexually harassing other women and men sexually harassing other men.
Employers should take all allegations of sexual harassment seriously, regardless of the sex of the complainant or the alleged harasser and ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out, as ultimately, they could be found liable for the actions of their staff if they fail to take allegations seriously”.
Most businesses will have a policy in place stating what they believe to be acceptable conduct both in the workplace and on work events such as parties or team-building events. This policy should also state how complaints should be made and the consequences for employees who breach these standards. New staff members should be made familiar with all policies during their on boarding, but as with everything, employers should carry out refresher sessions.
Stacey Cox from Elliot Mather concluded that “An employer should make sure that their employees feel equipped to make a complaint if they need to and that all employees are aware that no form of sexual harassment will be tolerated and staff shouldn’t suffer in silence”
If you’ve been affected, then please seek help, you don’t have to put up with it!