Union representatives should ensure they are sympathetic to any member complaining about sexual harassment and actively encourage employers to:
• State that they take sexual harassment seriously and inform all employees of this
• Reassure staff that action will be taken in cases of harassment
• Create an environment that those who are harassed will feel confident to make a complaint or seek a resolution
• Develop a clear policy prohibiting sexual harassment which should be communicated to all staff and should include a clear definition and examples of harassment and bullying
• Take preventative measures to eliminate sexual harassment, by assessing work situations, envisaging any harassment which could occur and encouraging language and behaviour of a professional nature, to discourage it
• Develop a clear procedure to handle complaints
• Include sexual harassment, the impact and how to deal with it, in training courses for all staff including managers.
• Monitor work environments and workers’ attitudes to ensure sexual harassment is eliminated
• Ensure that any policy is implemented in practice.
Any member who experiences sexual harassment should:
• Make it clear that they object, if they feel comfortable to do so
• Make a record of all incidents;
• Seek advice from a union representative or officer
It may be that the issue can be resolved informally, but if this is not possible then the member can take a grievance.
If this does not produce a satisfactory result then it may be possible to take legal action against the organisation. This could involve taking an employment tribunal claim under the Equality Act 2010, and/or for unfair dismissal where a dismissal has taken place, or taking legal action under the Health and Safety Legislation. It is important to note that in the majority of cases the member must have started or gone through an employer’s grievance procedure before submitting an employment tribunal claim. Any employment tribunal claim must be brought within three months of the sexual harassment.
In many cases sexual harassment may extend over a period of time to make up a continuing act and in this case a claim must be brought within three months of the last act.
Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit
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