Happy Valentines Day ?
Valentines Day and the immediate aftermath can cause chaos within the workplace. For example, is it acceptable to send a colleague a Valentines card, or could you leave yourself and your employer open to claims of sexual harassment? On the other hand, have you received a Valentines card or messages which you feel are too much? Set out below is some guidance on what the law says, along with some practical guidance.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 “the Act” provides a definition of harassment, for the full section see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/26. For the purposes of this post, I have only summarised the main points relevant to sexual 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?
- 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 contact your trade union, your HR department, any internal wellbeing or counselling services, ACAS, the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Human Rights Commission for support in getting the situation resolved and the harassment stopped.
- 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. Your employer should then investigate your complaint and provide a suitable outcome. Again, obtain support throughout this process from any of the sources listed under the preceding bullet point. Similarly, the solicitors at LincsLaw all have extensive experience of advising employees through internal processes such as these.
- 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 and / or victimisation. Please remember that internal policies or procedures may take some time to conclude, but a claim for sexual harassment or victimisation must be submitted to the Employment Tribunal no later than 3 months less 1 day from the date of the actual act complained of. Ensure you take appropriate legal advice so your limitation date is not missed.
Assistance From LincsLaw Solicitors?
If you are an employer struggling with staff relations, an employee who is unhappy with advances made at work, or find yourself the subject of allegations against you, please do not hesitate to call me on 01522 440512, email ContactUs@lincslaw.com or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk. I have over twelve years of specialist experience representing employees and employers in relation to harassment claims.
Director, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor