What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:
- violates your dignity
- makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
- creates a hostile or offensive environment
You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.
What’s the effect or intention behind the behaviour?
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The law says it’s sexual harassment if the behaviour is either meant to, or has the effect of:
- violating your dignity, or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
If you’re being harassed at work
Sexual harassment can include:
- sexual comments or jokes
- physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching and various forms of sexual assault
- displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature
- sending emails with a sexual content
If you’re treated badly because of your reaction to sexual harassment
If you’re treated badly or less favourably because of your reaction to sexual harassment, you may have a claim under the Equality Act. The Act says this is also harassment.
You’re protected if you reject or submit to the harassment.
The person who treats you less favourably can be the person who actually harassed you, but it can also be someone else.
Your colleague makes sexual advances towards you and you say no. Your colleague then starts to bully you. Or you submit to their advances and they spread nasty rumours about you. This is unlawful and you could take action under the Equality Act.
If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, please contact your local shop steward or full time official so they can advise and support you challenging the issue.
If you would like to contact the union confidentially to report any instances of sexual harassment at work or within the union structure itself please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources and organisations that provide support
TUC webinar on ending sexual harassment;
TUC: How reps can support members;
BBC: Is this sexual harassment?