Harassment at work is undeniably a huge problem and unfortunately, a high percentage of employees have experienced some type of harassment in the workplace. It goes without saying that harassment is demeaning and unacceptable, and no one should have to experience unwanted behaviour or comments that create an environment of humiliation, hostility, offensiveness, degradation or intimidation in the workplace.
Thankfully, The Equality Act 2010 (EA) protects against harassment and employees in every section of UK employment are entitled to take action if they have been subjected to harassment at work. It is important that all employees are aware of this and that they know the basics surrounding workplace harassment. So, below we have put together an easy to understand guide covering everything that employees should know in this regard.
What harassment does The EA protect against?
The EA consolidates all previous equality legislation and it protects against harassment as a result of:
- Sexual Orientation
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
These are all referred to as ‘protected characteristics’ and if you are treated in a manner that causes you emotional or physical suffering due to these characteristics, you will be protected by this key piece of legislation. Also, if you are harassed because you are linked to someone with a protected characteristic, then you are still protected by The EA.
How can harassment happen?
Contrary to popular belief, harassment does not just happen face-to-face. In the workplace, harassment can also happen by letter, email or phone and no matter how the harassment happens, employees are still protected. It is worth noting that harassment can include a one off incident and also repeated behaviour or comments.
What does ‘harassment’ usually look like?
Harassment in the workplace can take many forms and there are various different situations in which this behaviour can occur. Some common examples of harassment include;
- Practical jokes or teasing
- Humiliating or making fun
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Verbal abuse or offencive comments
- Threatening or abusive behaviour
This type of behaviour can be carried out by colleagues of the same level, seniors and also employers. You may find that even if your employer is not the harassor, they can still be vicariously liable for the harassment too and this enables you to make a claim against them to the Employment Tribunal.
What should you do if you experience workplace harassment?
When you are subjected to harassment in your workplace, it is always beneficial to try and resolve the problem by talking to your employer or a senior employee. You also have the option to raise a formal grievance if you would feel more comfortable doing this. You can always seek legal advice from an employment law specialist if required as well.
How long do you have to make a harassment claim?
When the workplace harassment you are experiencing falls into one of the EA categories and you are wanting to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal against your employer, there are strict time frames to be aware of. The claim must be made within three months from the date that the harassment happened.
How do you win a harassment claim?
When making a harassment claim, the behaviour that you have experienced needs to be unwanted and this is called ‘unwanted conduct’ in The EA. In order to be awarded compensation by the Employment Tribunal, you need to show that the harassor’s behaviour or comments violated your dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Even if the person who harassed you did not mean to make you feel a certain way, as long as it was reasonable that you did feel this way, you may still win your claim.
Speaking to a specialist about harassment at work
Hopefully, you will now know the basics about workplace harassment and the information above will be particularly beneficial to you if you or someone you know is being subjected to unwanted behaviour or comments at work. Should you wish to speak to an employment law specialist about your experience of workplace harassment to get some tailored advice, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers.
Our expert team will gladly provide you with the legal advice that you require and we can even assist you with making a harassment claim against your employer if this is something that you would like to do. We know how stressful it can be dealing with an employment law issue, so let us help you by shouldering the burden and guiding you through the process. No matter what your individual circumstances may be, we can assure you that you will be in the best hands when you turn to us for legal advice and assistance.