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Sexual Harassment: Factsheet & Guidance For Employees

Employment Lawyers advises on Post-termination restrictions and restrictive covenants

Our expert Employment Law Solicitors discuss everything employees need to know about sexual harassment in the workplace.

#MeToo has been crucial in encouraging women to speak out. #MeToo spread virally as a hashtag to highlight how widespread sexual harassment in the workplace is and encouraged women to speak out.

Consequently, high profile cases of sexual harassment have continued to be reported in the news since 2017.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published the results of their online survey on Sexual Harassment in March 2018, made up of 750 responses. Three quarters of the 750 had experienced Sexual Harassment at work, and the majority of these were women.

Three quarters of the accused were colleagues / directors of the company. In around half of the cases where individuals had reported the incident, employers took no action. One quarter of those surveyed who had been sexually harassed had not reported their experience. Most employers reported that they had a policy which dealt with sexual harassment. However, only one third of employers offered training to staff other than line managers.

How is Sexual Harassment defined by the Law?

For full details of the legal definition of sexual harassment, please visit our page on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

Who can Sexual Harassment happen to?

Workers can be sexually harassed by people of the same sex or the opposite sex.

Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by…

  • someone in the same team
  • a supervisor or manager
  • another member of staff
  • someone else that a worker comes into contact with while they are working, such as a customer or supplier.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

  • Written or verbal comments of a sexual nature, such as remarks about an individual’s appearance, questions about their sex life, or offensive jokes.
  • The employer or colleagues displaying pornographic or explicit images.
  • Receiving unwanted communications, such as emails, with content of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted physical contact and touching.
  • Sexual assault.

Many Professions and Industries are Regulated

Professions Regulated by Law or Public Authority are professions where there is a regulatory requirement to register with a competent authority prior to practising that profession. For example: lawyers and accountants.

Regulated Industries include:

Telecommunications, health care and life sciences, rail, airline and pipeline transportation, oil and gas, electric power and transmission, financial services and trading, water, mail.

Regulatory Interest in Sexual Misconduct

“We will always take action where that is the case. Given the changes in societal expectations we will see more of that in the coming years.”
– Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), 31 October 2019

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

#MeToo exposed the fact that repeat sexual harassment offenders had been using their power and wealth to silence their victims and prevent them from reporting crimes. Examples of this have been high-profile individuals such as Harvey Weinstein and Sir Philip Green who used Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to prevent their victims from speaking out or reporting them to the authorities in return for a cash settlement.

As a result of this, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the Law Society issued guidance for all legal practitioners on the use of NDAs and confidentiality clauses, usually found in Settlement Agreements.

The SRA guidance recommends that:

  • The clauses of an NDA do not prevent an individual from notifying the SRA, other regulators or law enforcement agencies of wrongdoing.
  • NDAs are not to be used to threaten litigation or other negative consequences as a way of discouraging disclosures.
  • They are not to be used to otherwise exert inappropriate influence over people not to make disclosures.
  • They are not to be worded so as to give the impression that reporting or disclosure is prohibited.

If you have concerns about sexual harassment in your workplace, or have been offered a Settlement Agreement which contains NDAs which you are uncomfortable with, please contact our Employment Law team on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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