The Jimmy Savile scandal has highlighted the risks of vulnerable employees or individuals being sexually harassed but the risks of sexual harassment also extends to female employees who on the outside appear to be robust.
One example of a robust female employee who states that they were sexually harassed, is Miriam O’Reilly who describes her experiences in her article in the Mail on 18 October 2012 (see article).
If an employer knew that an employee was sexually harassing employees and it did not do anything or enough to stop it, then the employer’s liabilities could be very substantial indeed. For example, if an employer employed an employee who they knew had suffered from serious mental health issues, and the sexual harassment caused them to have a serious breakdown then the liabilities would be very substantial indeed.
I advise that an employer should not assume that any employee was immune from or liable to be caused distress by sexual harassment.
At the induction stage of employment, great emphasis should be placed on the employer’s approach to harassment issues and policies and procedures should be put in place to ensure that all employees are absolutely confident that if a complaint is made it will be considered properly and appropriate action taken against any offender.
Employees should be able to feel safe that they can blow the whistle on sexual harassment and with some companies it may be appropriate to utilise an external body for people to make a complaint to and assist them with dealing with the sexual harassment.
Throughout employment managers should be trained in respect of ensuring that an inappropriate workplace environment does not develop or continue and to keep an eye out for any sexual harassment.
If this is not done, then the scope for substantial claims is very real