Is Sexual Harassment “Still just a bit of banter?”

Research carried out by the TUC in association with the Everyday Sexism Project has revealed that sexual harassment remains an ever present problem in the modern workplace. Findings in their report “Still just a bit of banter? Sexual Harassment in the workplace in 2016” show that of those women polled:

  • 52% have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
  • 35% have heard comments of a sexual nature being made about other women in the workplace.
  • 32% have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature.
  • 28% have been subject to comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes.
  • Nearly 25% have experienced unwanted touching.
  • 20% have experienced unwanted sexual advances.

Under the Equality Act 2010 sexual harassment occurs where both:

  • Person A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature; and
  • The conduct has the purpose or effect of either violating Person B's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for Person B.

Work is a huge part of life and many people meet their future partners through work. People being people there will be conduct of a sexual nature and for employers to try and stop it would be to push on the ocean. However it is where that conduct is unwanted and where it violates the dignity of another that employers have a responsibility. Under the Equality Act 2010 employers are prima facie liable for the acts of their employees and they may be liable for the acts of 3rd parties such as customers and contracts. Employers may avoid this liability if they can demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment.

What constitutes all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment will depend on the circumstances and it is important for employers to seek legal advice.

We have launched a new insurance-backed employment service called Employer Protect to help. For further information on how it can meet the needs of your business, please email employment.law@emsleys.com or call 0113 201 4900.

(For the full report see: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/SexualHarassmentreport2016.pdf)
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