This tells us that sexual harassment is not only pervasive in society and the workplace, but worryingly mis-perceived. Further, there is a significant level of confusion around what constitutes sexual harassment. The ACAS guidelines define sexual harassment as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’, and, it can still be considered sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser didn't mean for it to be perceived as such.
i.e. what is perceived as sexual harassment by the person on the receiving end and resulting in the appropriate and relevant corresponding investigation. It is imperative these guidelines are made clear for employees, so that the ‘I didn’t mean it that way’ cannot be used as ‘get out’, when claims are investigated.
It is important that clarification of definitions is brought to light in the workplace, not only through courses on the boundaries of sexual consent, but also through thorough investigation of each allegation. Indeed, when allegations are not properly investigated, the effect on staff morale and productivity can be huge, not to mention absenteeism. Making a ‘safe’ culture for those affected to come forward, can be simple as having a call line where anonymous allegations to be made, or making sure the right psychological support can be made after seeking an allegation.
Indeed, these types of workers are not only less protected by the company, but are less likely to benefit from a company’s methodology in the way with which that sexual harassment is dealt. As a result, it is crucial that organisations put in place additional protection for those coming to work for a company on a more ad hoc basis.
If you’d like to discuss this with us today, or how investigations should be conducted or how to develop an even safer organisational culture, then do please get in touch.