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When you think of sexual harassment in the workplace, you would be forgiven for thinking that it means a physical violation but actually, it runs far deeper. 
In a work environment, it can be difficult to know the boundaries. An employee may not realise that they are making a colleague feel uncomfortable which is why, as an employer, you need to make your position clear. 

 What are some examples of sexual harassment? 

🟢 Flirting 
🟢 Making comments about someone’s clothing or the way they look 
🟢 Sexually offensive jokes 
🟢 Making fun of someone’s sexual orientation 
🟢 Sharing sexual images with colleagues 
🟢 Touching someone against their will (even hugging is out of bounds) 
🟢 Assault or rape 
In many cases, an employee may be sexually harassing a colleague without even realising it. For example, they may feel they are harmlessly flirting when that is actually making the other person feel uncomfortable. 
Another example is hugging. Whilst it feels like a perfectly natural thing to do, there is no place for it in the workplace. Not everyone feels comfortable with that level of physical contact. 
Complimenting someone on how they look can also be seen as sexual harassment. Whilst it may be a compliment to one staff member, it is uncomfortable to another. 
There is a key word throughout all of these examples; Uncomfortable
Whilst we should all be aware that any physical violation will not be tolerated, these more subtle breaches can often be overlooked. 

 How can you manage sexual harassment in the workplace? 

Firstly, you need to create a zero-tolerance culture in your organisation. Make it clear through your policies and procedures that any breaches or complaints will be taken seriously. 
You could also; 
➡️ Provide training for both staff and managers. Including what is and is not acceptable, how to recognise sexual harassment, what to do if you witness sexual harassment and how to manage a complaint. 
➡️ Have an open door policy. Make it easy for staff to air their concerns without fear of repercussions. 
➡️ Take any accusations seriously. Do not brush them off as a joke or a silly misdemeanour. If an employee is made to feel uncomfortable in any way, it is no joke. 
➡️ Have a clear policy in place and ensure every staff member reads and understands it. If a complaint is made, look at those policies and be honest about what is not working and change it. 
➡️ Assess risks within the workplace. Consider environments where alcohol may be involved or even work responsibilities between colleagues. A power struggle can often result in a complaint. 


Most importantly, have clear reporting procedures and follow them to the letter. If the issue cannot be resolved informally, follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and grievance procedures, and ensure everyone involved knows what is happening and when. 
Sexual harassment can happen to anyone. As an employer, ensure you are doing everything you can do, to keep it away from your organisation. 
If you need any advice on your procedures or how to manage a complaint, please do not hesitate to get in touch. 
Please do not hesitate to contact if you would like to discuss a complaint that you have received. Taking HR from 'TO DO' to 'DONE'. 
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