Apr 8, 2014

Are you or someone you know being harassed at work?

What you need to know...


Harassment is one of the most common problems faced in today’s workplace and there has been a fair bit of publicity around it in recent times. In spite clear laws and written policies protecting employees against such offences, concerned employees are apprehensive about approaching their managers or the HR department. So what is harassment and why should it concern you?

ACAS defines harassment as unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. Unfortunately in most cases it is difficult to establish harassment as the perpetrator will normally perpetrate when there are no witnesses or it could be very discreet. Then there are those which are done by the employee’s manager and the employee may be afraid of raising an alarm. If you think this only happened in the past and the workplaces are a lot better with the emphasis on equality, diversity, dignity and respect, the statistics below will be an eye-opener.

A study commissioned by Slater & Gordon in 2013 revealed that as many as sixty percent of women have experienced inappropriate behaviour from work colleagues, of which 21 percent have been persistent.

But it’s not just women facing workplace harassment. The study also highlighted that it is equally rampant amongst men, with almost forty percent of men reporting similar experiences.

So what should you do if you are experiencing harassment or know of someone who is being harassed? Firstly make it very clear to the perpetrator that you want him / her to stop. Make notes of the incidents along with the days, times and if you think anyone may have seen the incident. Confide in a colleague or even a friend who may be able to provide guidance and support in the matter. Approach your manager or the HR representative. Finally if you feel that the matter was not handled properly or where you are unable to report it to anyone within the company, please seek legal advice. Both the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provide free and impartial advice on employment issues. Bear in mind that if the company you are working for knows about the harassment and does not take action, then the company could be seen as condoning the act and hence liable for it.