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The harassment pandemic in workplaces

Two employees and a senior manager in an office

In a world without any cases of harassment, every single person can feel like they’re in a safe environment where they are able to work to their full potential.

It goes without saying that preventing harassment at work should be one of many workplace topics on the forefront of all employers' minds and there are many things that employers can do to work towards building a safer working environment, which in turn will boost employee morale, increase productivity throughout the workplace and reduce absenteeism.

Harassment in UK workplaces

Citizens Advice describes harassment as…

Unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Unwanted behaviour could be:

- spoken or written words or abuse
- offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites
- images and graffiti
- physical gestures
- facial expressions
- jokes

Citizens Advice

A 2020 study of 2,000 employees in the UK found that 23% of the British workforce has been bullied at work.

This is an unacceptably high percentage of employees, and it’s clear that employers can do more to prevent and tackle harassment in the workplace.

Although Bullying is not strictly recognised by the Equality Act 2010, employers still have a legal responsibility under the Health & Safety At Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes preventing bullying & harassment at work.

Similarly, sexual harassment is a prevalent issue in UK workplaces...

Sexual harassment in UK workplaces

A government survey on sexual harassment tells us that 29% of those in employment have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their workplace in the last 12 months. What makes this sickening statistic even worse is that only 15% of victims formally reported it.

Additionally, a report by TalentLMS and Purple Campaign would suggest. From a survey of 1,200 employees, they found that:

  • 92% of women said that unwanted physical contact counts as sexual harassment, compared to 78% of men
  • 88% of women considered suggestive remarks as harassment, compared to 69% of men
  • 86% of women considered sexual jokes as harassment, compared to 69% of men
  • 73% of women said comments regarding someone's gender identity and expression were sexual harassment, compared to 47% of men

Another key finding from this survey was that over 75% of women and 85% of men reported that they feel safer at work after having received training, which would help to reduce individual perceptions of sexual harassment and give a clearer understanding of unacceptable behaviour.

Citizens Advice describes sexual harassment as…

Unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, or creates a hostile or offensive environment.

Citizens Advice

You may have seen stories on the news recently about well-known organisations brushing harassment claims under the rug. This has naturally caused a lot of negative press and caused a huge backlash due to their negligence when it comes to tackling harassment at work. But what can employers do to effectively stop workplace harassment?

What can employers do to prevent workplace harassment?

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees' health, safety, and wellbeing is in their best interest, and preventing harassment at work falls under that umbrella.

With that said, here are a few ways that employers can help prevent harassment in the workplace.

Create an anti-harassment policy

Regardless of the size of an organisation, it is essential that policies are put in place to ensure that employees understand what is expected of them at work and that staff can turn to for any work-related concerns. For this reason, it is extremely common for organisations to implement anti-harassment policies.

An effective anti-harassment policy should include a number of elements, including:

  • A statement of commitment from senior management
  • Reference to grievance procedures
  • The steps the organisation takes to prevent harassment
  • Manager’s responsibilities

Check that your policies are actually working

It is essential for employers to not only introduce certain policies to ensure that everybody knows what is expected of them, but it is also crucial that these policies are regularly reviewed to ensure that they are effective.

A review process could be run in a number of ways, but one of the most effective methods is by sending a survey to staff to see how effective they find the policies.

You should also give staff the option to answer open questions, rather than giving them a tick box survey as this gives them a better opportunity to be heard.

Assess & mitigate risks

Employers should be regularly considering factors that might increase the likelihood of harassment at work and what steps that they can take in order to minimise them.

Any findings should be shared with all employees, along with ways that the organisation plans to mitigate risks. These findings can be shared with employees in a number of ways, including by:

  • Adding them to your organisation’s anti-harassment policy
  • Share it through internal channels such as an Intranet
  • Company meetings

Reporting systems

Many organisations implement harassment reporting systems that allows employees to raise an issue and gives them the option to raise it anonymously.

These systems can be as simple as an online tool or a telephone-based service. As long as it’s quick and simple to access, it can come in many forms.

Having a reporting system gives employees the reassurance that they are being listened to, and it allows organisations to act swiftly in taking action.

Educate employees

It is an employer's responsibility to increase the awareness of harassment in the workplace.

Educating your staff will not only show your organisation is committed to creating a safe working environment, but it will also improve everyone's understanding of how their behaviour can have an impact on others.

Here at iHASCO, we offer an Anti-Harassment Course Bundle that helps organisations to create a positive and safe work environment. The bundle includes courses like:

You can claim your free, no-obligation trial to the courses today.

Alternatively, you can request a bespoke quote for your organisation and someone from our team will get in touch with you shortly.

Online Bullying & Harassment Training