How to Tackle Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment, or offensive conduct related to an individual’s sex/gender, can be insidious and take many forms. Inappropriate sexual attention, advances and requests for sexual favours can all be forms of sexual harassment, as can any conduct, whether verbal or physical, of a sexual nature. Often those who perpetrate this unacceptable behaviour try to excuse it by saying that it was just a joke or that it was meant sincerely, for instance as a compliment, however in reality such conduct can build into a hostile environment for those being harassed. There are laws that protect against sexual harassment in the United Kingdom, and there is much that organisations and individuals can do to fight sexual harassment as well.
Sexual Harassment and the LawA number of laws outlaw sexual harassment in the United Kingdom. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment, vocational training, education, the provision and sale of goods, facilities and services, premises and the exercise of public functions due to their sex/gender. The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 also protect the rights of individuals who intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment.
In 2005, the Sex Discrimination Act was extended into the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations in order to comply with the European Community’s Equal Treatment Directive. These Regulations have attempted to define sexual harassment as any conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted by the recipient, including verbal, non-verbal and physical behaviours. These Regulations do not regard the intent of the actions, but rather simply that they actions themselves are unwanted. Discrimination against those who are pregnant and primary caregivers is also discussed in the Regulations.
Sexual Harassment and OrganisationsIn effect, the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations of 2005 have made it an organisation’s or employer’s business to know how his or her students/parishioners/employees are conducting themselves. In order to ensure that everyone knows that sexual discrimination and sexual harassment is not tolerated, organisations and employers should draft and distribute the organisation or company’s policy towards sexism and sexual harassment as well as guidelines for how the organisation or company will deal with and investigate reports of these matters.
Organisations and employers should also designate someone in the company to become up to date with all sexual discrimination and harassment laws and to make sure that the organisation’s or company’s policies all comply with these laws. Finally, organisations and employers should discuss these policies and laws with all individuals to ensure that everyone is aware of the organisation’s or company’s stance toward sexism and sexual harassment and that they understand that it will not be tolerated.