Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment is a major contributor to a toxic workplace culture and is often underreported. To fulfil your duty of care to your people, it is vital that employers understand the impact of sexual harassment and the steps to take to prevent it.

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Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Training - Tell Jane

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual behaviour – physical or verbal, in person or online. It can be a single incident or a repeated pattern, and it can happen to anyone of any gender. Common examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances or propositions
  • Invasive questions and sexual comments
  • Degrading or sexually offensive jokes
  • Emails or messages with sexual content
  • Sharing or displaying pornographic material (text, drawings, photographs or videos)
  • Unwanted or inappropriate touching (which may also constitute sexual assault)

Sexual harassment is about power – it involves making someone feel uncomfortable, humiliated or intimidated. It may be perpetrated by colleagues, by clients or customers, or by managers or leaders.

Women report experiencing higher levels of sexual harassment, but men can also be victims. In addition, LGBT+ people may be at increased risk of sexual harassment on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

How we can help

Prevention is better than cure. We believe sexual harassment awareness training should never be just a box-ticking exercise. Our Sexual Harassment Prevention training provides practical, interactive content aimed at fostering genuine engagement and collective responsibility for creating and upholding a culture of respect.

The insightful session provides an in-depth exploration of workplace harassment, including the power dynamics of harassment, understanding what constitutes sexual harassment, navigating the “grey areas” of inappropriate behaviour, how and when to intervene as a witness, and overcoming fear and shame to speak out if you experience sexual harassment.

Our expert trainers will also provide leaders and HR professionals with practical guidance to respond to complaints of sexual harassment confidently and effectively. Attendees will gain valuable insight into determining the best course of action when first receiving a complaint, responding to complaints through a lens of intersectionality, and knowing when to escalate complaints to more formal procedures.

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Through Sexual Harassment Prevention training, we support organisations to create cultures of respect, where people are considerate of one another’s boundaries and feel empowered to speak out against inappropriate behaviour.

What are the consequences of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can make victims feel unsafe and unvalued at work, especially if incidents go unreported or complaints are not taken seriously. This has knock-on effects on mental health, motivation, team cohesion and productivity throughout your company.

In the era of #MeToo, sexual harassment is also likely to have reputational consequences. Tolerating harassment can mean losing out on talent and business, as potential employees and prospective clients increasingly choose to avoid toxic company cultures. Plus, there are potential legal consequences; under the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination.

As an employer, your duty of care and responsibility for preventing sexual harassment doesn’t stop at the end of the working day nor at the threshold of the office building. It encompasses any company sites and external work-related events (such as training days and social events), as well as the digital realm. When it comes to harassment by clients or customers, if a complaint is raised and no action is taken to stop the harassment, the employer is likely to be held liable.

If you’re concerned about sexual harassment and your workplace, contact our team today for confidential advice and practical guidance.

We can help

Speak out against workplace sexual harassment

Many people who experience sexual harassment at work fear the consequences of speaking out, especially if the harasser is in a position of authority. It is therefore vital to provide platforms for employees to seek advice anonymously.

The freephone Tell Jane employee hotline provides a safe, confidential space for employees to seek advice or report an incident of sexual harassment. For organisations, it helps to build a clear picture of the existing workplace culture, address any toxic undercurrents and respond to complaints before they escalate into formal grievances.

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Anonymous Reporting Freephone Hotline for Employees - Tell Jane