Harassment at work

Bullying and harassment can be extremely damaging in the workplace; it is important employers do all they can to prevent such behaviours.


What is harassment?

Harassment is a type of bullying which relates to a protected characteristic.

The Equality Act 2010 (s26) outlines three types of unwanted conduct which can constitute harassment:

  1. Where the conduct relates to a relevant protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation)
  2. where the conduct is of a sexual nature
  3. Where the conduct is of a sexual nature or relates to gender reassignment or sex and results in less favourable treatment due to rejection or submission to the conduct

The harassment must also violate the targeted individual’s dignity or be responsible for creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, in their opinion.

Harassment can also take many different forms and occur as a pattern of behaviour or as a one-off incident.

Events that constitute bullying and harassment could include:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Unwanted sexual advances, e.g. sexual jokes, unwanted physical contact, etc.
  • Preventing progression, i.e. intentionally blocking promotions
  • Spreading rumours
  • Persistent unwarranted criticism
What are your responsibilities?

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees’ and liability for harassment claims can lead to costly compensation awards and reputational damage, as well as being very damaging for the workplace and individuals. It is therefore vital that employers do all they reasonably can to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace. In particular:

  • It is important to set good work practice examples throughout the company, especially in the positions of leadership; this can often be encouraged through regular training and awareness. Good practices help to promote a positive work environment with a culture of respect which is free from bullying and harassment.
  • Companies should ensure there are policies, handbooks or guidelines in place that prohibit bullying and harassment and that all staff are aware of them.
  • All complaints should be handled in a professional, confidential and serious manner and it should be clear who employees are able to refer concerns to and that they will be supported.

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Meet the Harassment at work Team

Meet the Harassment at work Team