Monday, 21 August 2017

Employers could face legal action

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace could take action against their employer if they fail to protect them during working hours.

The warning comes from Gemma Workman, an employment lawyer at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, who was speaking out after the latest unwanted crisis at technology firm Uber.

“Uber has faced a lot of negative publicity over cases of the status of their workers in the gig economy, and now there have been various allegations of sexual harassment too.

“A former engineer wrote a blog that described a culture of sexism and sexual harassment within the company, including the HR department failing to take her seriously and being propositioned by her manager.

“And with the blog being read widely and publicised online thousands of times, it’s a perfect example of what a huge impact such allegations can have on the financial status and the reputation of a company.

“This situation is a stark reminder to employers that they need to have effective and clear steps in place to prevent harassment in the workplace from the very start. As well as robust policies in place, you should provide adequate training to relevant employees so that they are well prepared if they need to deal with a complaint like this.

“All complaints should be treated sensitively by an appropriate person as soon as possible, so that you can try and resolve the problem before it escalates into a more serious issue.”

Miss Workman said in the UK, protection against sexual harassment at work was covered by the Equality Act 2010. It defines sexual harassment as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them’.

“As an employer, you have a responsibility to create a safe work environment for your employees, and if you fail to take that responsibility seriously, potential victims could bring a claim against you too.

“Don’t get yourself and your business into a case which could bring significant legal costs – if you can show that you’ve taken reasonable steps to prevent the harassment occurring, you may be able to defend a claim, but it’s better to avoid the situation happening in the first place.”