Building on our examination of the impact of the Equality Act 2010, we took a more in depth look at sexual harassment in the workplace and where gender lies in the world of equality and diversity. The legislation on sexual harassment and discrimination has been in place for some time before the Equality Act, it is not new and yet there are live and current examples of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The specifics and substance of these may have changed over the years and the boundaries of what is and is not considered to be acceptable and appropriate has shifted but the principle of the impact of harassment has not. It is not acceptable for the harasser to claim that it was not intentional, it was just banter and just the way that we speak to each other. That is not the issue, the issue is the impact that the action has on the victim and if the action is considered to be offensive, inappropriate, humiliating that is what is important. The action may not be inappropriate groping in the photocopier cupboard as we are not in the office, but comments about someone’s personal space or belongings identified through an online digital call, could be considered to be harassment.
The Me Too movement has raised awareness of the practice of sexual harassment, had lowered the barriers for others to come forward and tell their story and has openly shifted perception and acceptance on this issue.
This could be happening in your workplace and it is not a defence to say that you didn’t know or didn’t think that it caused any offence. Business owners and employers are advised to take steps in their business to create an inclusive culture in your business. Those steps include:
- Educate employees and yourself
- Have appropriate policies and procedures in place
- Talk about the polices and the implications of the provisions
- Train managers and employees on boundaries of acceptable behaviours and to set acceptable norms.
As this is an evolving and developing topic, it has to be revisited and worked through to create an environment in which employees feel safe to come forward to talk about issues, raise concerns and establish a healthy and informed workforce which values respect, inclusion and equality.
A first step could be to audit your business to establish what is happening, identify examples of inappropriate behaviour or gaps in training and education. From this you could build a strategy to actively develop an equal and inclusive workplace. If you wish to discuss this privately and confidentially please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 2257458.