With many employees still working from home, the Independent has reported that video calls and lewd messages are being used to sexually harass colleagues. This is leaving victims feeling they have nowhere to turn. Read on to see how we can help if you are sexually harassed whilst working from home.
The Independent has reported an increase in sexual harassment during lockdown. The full article, which can be found at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sexual-harassment-women-work-from-home-b1776051.html describes a number of ways in which perpetrators are targeting colleagues. Harassment horror stories include: –
- “The director of the company uses Zoom to take screenshots of myself and other women which he shares with colleagues making derogatory statements and implying the photos look like we’re doing sexual acts.”
- “I have had multiple calls with clients where they have made lewd remarks about how I sound or what I am doing whilst working. The most common is ‘you sound sexy, you should be working as a phone sex operator’.”
- “A group WhatsApp chat was created by my manager to post updates or changes to the work schedule. The harasser took my phone number and messaged me privately. The chat started with his sexual desire for me and desire to have sex”.
The Law – Sexual Harassment
Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 “the Act” provides a definition of harassment.
- Harassment can include any unwanted conduct relating to sex which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating for them an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
- Harassment can include unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating for them an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
- Harassment can also occur when a person engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or that is related to gender reassignment or sex which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating for them an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment AND because of a person’s rejection of or submission to the conduct, they are treated less favourably that they would have been if they had not rejected or submitted to the conduct.
What Can You Do?
- Although it might seem daunting, the first step is to ask the perpetrator to stop. Working from home provides an opportunity for this to be done via email. You will then have a written record of asking for the behaviour to end.
- If asking the perpetrator to stop does not work, then in the first instance speak to your Line Manager to try and informally resolve the situation. If your Line Manager is involved, then elevate to the next available Manager. It may also be wise at this early opportunity to take legal advice and you are welcome to call us on 01522 440512 for a free consultation.
- If an informal approach does not work then review your employer’s formal policies and procedures to see if they have a Grievance Procedure, Dignity at Work Procedure or Bullying & Harassment Procedure (or other). You should then follow the appropriate procedure which will usually require you to submit a written complaint about the treatment you are receiving, along with how you would like to see it resolving. Again, you should consider taking legal advice at this stage and we would encourage you to call us on 01522 440512.
- If the formal approach does not work, you may seek redress in the Employment Tribunal by submitting a claim under the Equality Act 2010 for sexual harassment. Depending on how your employer has responded to your complaint, you may also have other claims to bring. Please remember that internal policies or procedures may take some time to conclude, but a claim for sexual harassment or victimisation but you must start the Employment Tribunal process no later than 3 months less 1 day from the date of the actual act complained of. You do this by registering your complaint for ACAS Early Conciliation which is the first step in the Employment Tribunal process. Further information can be found on our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/acas-early-conciliation-do-you-need-an-employment-solicitor/ Working out time limits can be difficult and allowing your claim to go “out of time” could prevent you from being able to pursue your matter at the Employment Tribunal. We are happy to assist and if you need legal advice about your time limit, call us for a free consultation on 01522 440512.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help
We have assisted many clients with their claims for Sexual Harassment. If you fear you are being targeted for sexual harassment or have any workplace concerns, do not hesitate to contact us for an initial free consultation on 01522 440512.
Alternatively, if you would like more information about sexual harassment visit our sex discrimination information pages at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/workplace-problems/sex-discrimination/.
Sophie Goodwill, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors