If this has happened, it could be classed as discrimination. This is covered under the Equality Act 2010. If it takes place in the workplace, you may be able to bring a discrimination claim against your employer for sexual harassment. If you bring a claim in the employment tribunal you can claim compensation for the harm you have suffered. Your employer may offer to settle your claim out of court. If you agree to a settlement, you may be asked to enter into a written agreement with your employer. You will be asked to get advice or support from a lawyer or ACAS before you sign it.
There are strict rules on what the agreement can say about confidentiality. For example, it cannot stop you from reporting the harassment to the police even if you sign the agreement.
Sexual harassment may also be a criminal offence.
You can find out more about sexual harassment and how it's defined, and your rights from Citizens Advice. You can also speak to a legal adviser.
Sometimes speaking up is easy. It can feel good to get your point of view across in a shop or restaurant. But some things, like sexual harassment, are much harder to speak up about. It can be upsetting. Getting help can be confusing. Here are three top tips if you think you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment:
Don't suffer in silence
Don’t wait until things get worse if you are uncomfortable with how you are treated at work. This is especially true if you think it might be sexual harassment. Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety at work. They should be doing things to stop you from being harassed by others. They might have a confidential helpline you can use. If not, get advice and support from Safeline.
You don't have to put up with banter
Banter may be harmless. But if it’s sexual in nature and it upsets you, it should not be accepted.
If you hear sexual banter at work, you should speak to your employer. You may be able to fix the issue informally. You could ask your employer to speak to the person who made you feel uncomfortable. They could explain why the banter is not okay. Or your employer could ask all employees to go on training on acceptable workplace conversation. Training can teach when this crosses the line into discriminatory or illegal behaviour.
Speak up about online harassment
More and more sexual harassment takes place online and on social media. A recent study looked at the Twitter accounts of 150 women in the public eye. It found that 12 per cent of tweets they receive are gender-specific slurs, threats, or sexual harassment. You can report sexual harassment to the social media channel. This might be Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you are being threatened, you can report this to the police. Contact them through the 101 telephone service. For more information, visit Victim Support.
- If you experience sexual harassment at work, you can: Speak to the person who is harassing you
- Speak informally to your employer
- Raise a formal complaint or grievance
If you don’t think this has made any difference or you are not happy with the way your employer is addressing the issue you can:
- Bring a claim in the employment tribunal
- Go to the police
To bring a claim in the employment tribunal, you will need to contact ACAS for early conciliation. You need to do this within 3 months of the date of the harassing behaviour. You should speak to ACAS or take legal advice as soon as you can. Then you can fully understand your options.
You can go to the police at any time. If you are thinking of going to the police, you should do it sooner rather than later.