Sexual harassment is not a thing of the past and is still prevailing in the workplace according to a recent survey carried out by the TUC. Key findings from the survey were:

• More than half (52%) of all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
• 35% of women have heard comments of a sexual nature being made about other women in the workplace.
• 32% of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature
• 28% of women have been subject to comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes.
• Nearly one-quarter of women have experienced unwanted touching (such as a hand on the knee or lower back).
• One-fifth of women have experienced unwanted sexual advances.

In the vast majority of cases, the person who was the perpetrator was their direct manager or someone else with direct authority over them.

Sexual Harassment Awards on the Increase

Compensation for discrimination claims may include compensation for injury to feelings. An award for injury to feelings is separate from an award of compensation for financial loss. An employee can recover injury to feelings even when they have suffered no financial loss.

The latest EAT case on this (AA Solutions Ltd v Majid [2016] UK EAT/0.217115) concerns a law firm where the amount for injury to feelings award was considered and the Tribunal came to the conclusion that it could apply a further inflationary increase to such awards.

What are the facts of the Majid case?

Ms Majid was dismissed after 6 weeks of employment and she claimed discrimination on the grounds of her sex and cited around 40 acts of sexual harassment by her employer. This ranged from her being asked to go out to the cinema, talking about installing a bed in one of the rooms at the office, attempting to hug her, touching her arms, squeezing and rubbing her hands and shaking hands and making her feel uncomfortable by these types of acts. Miss Majid was successful in her claim and was awarded an injury to feelings award of £14,000 amongst other amounts. The seriousness of the sexual harassment acts was felt that this case fell within the middle vento band and noted that it had been uplifted previously by inflation. This case decided that it was right that these bands can be adjusted to take into account inflation so awards for injury to feelings will be increased. Although there is conflicting case law about whether certain uplifts should apply, the table below gives a projection of what this now might be:

Bands

Award band for injury to feelings

Top Band

For the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of harassment. Awards can only exceed this in the most exceptional cases

£24,348 to £48,696

Middle Band

For serious cases which would not merit an award in the highest band

£8,116 to £24,348

Bottom Band

For less serious cases such as a one-off incident or an isolated event

£812 to £8,116

An injury to feelings award can therefore substantially increase any award in a discrimination case.

Comments on the TUC Report and the Majid case?

The TUC has made a number of recommendations in its report for employers to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Training is high on the list for all levels of management. This includes training on what sexual harassment is, including stalking and online harassment which is now becoming more common place. Policies should be reviewed in relation to these issues. They should also deal with social media on workplace equipment. Given that the award for injury to feelings is increasing and compensation for discrimination is uncapped, training is certainly a worthwhile investment for companies.

Such training can prevent discrimination occurring and/or if you do find yourself with such a case, then it could provide you with a defence.