Sexual harassment occurs when an individual engages in unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It has the purpose or effect of:
- violating someone’s dignity or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment for the individual concerned.
Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Conduct can still be considered sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser didn't intend for it to be. Sexual harassment can still occur even if the conduct is not directly targeted at the other person. For example, the display of pornography in a work environment or sexual comments about women may create a degrading, intimidating or hostile working environment for co-workers who see or overhear them.
When considering the effect of behaviour on someone, it is important to view things from their point of view. It is important to remember that it may be difficult, especially for a junior colleague, to speak up and challenge unwanted behaviour.
Sexual harassment can include:
- Written or verbal comments of a sexual nature including remarks about an employee's appearance, questions about their sex life, offensive jokes;
- Propositions, advances or making promises in return for sexual favours
- Emails/social media messaging with content of a sexual nature
- Displaying pornographic or explicit images
- Unwanted physical contact and touching
- Criminal behaviour, including sexual assault, stalking, indecent exposure and offensive communications