Will a Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim Affect Your Employment?

Balal Qaiser
Employment Law Solicitor

Following the recent Employment Tribunal decision in the case of Ms A v Mr M Hill (former Labour MP), the issue of sexual harassment and victimisation has once again come into the limelight. The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Hill engaged in sexual harassment and victimisation of Ms A over a period of several months, and that Ms A’s ultimate dismissal was contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Ms A was awarded substantial compensation, following a claim that first started almost three years ago.

Once again, we are reminded that there is no space for sexual harassment in the workplace, or within society at large and if you feel you’ve been subjected to harassing treatment at work, then steps can be taken to challenge such treatment and hold those responsible for inflicting such treatment to account. If you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment at work, it’s upsetting and worrying, however you may be able to bring a claim for compensation.

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What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment is a type of sex discrimination and is covered by the Equality Act 2010. Harassment is when someone engages in unwanted conduct relating to a relevant Protected Characteristic, and that conduct results in violating the other person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Harassment can be verbal or non-verbal and does not necessarily happen face to face.

Sexual Harassment at Work – What can you do About it?

If you’ve suffered from sexual harassment at work, read through your employer’s internal policies where you may find out if there is a specific process to. Further to this, if your employer has a HR Department, you may wish to raise it with them in the first instance. If not, speak to your line manager.

If you are in a situation where your line manager is the one harassing you, you should go to your line manager’s manager.

In the absence of an internal policy or procedure or where a less formal option of addressing the situation has not worked, you could use your employer’s grievance procedure to raise your concern.

How Does a Sexual Harassment Claim Work?

Failing this, you can make a claim against your employer at an Employment Tribunal if you feel you have been sexually harassed at work. In these types of claims, it is possible to pursue a claim individually against the person or people who are harassing you, in addition to the employer. This can mean that the person or people involved in the harassment become formally involved in the proceedings and if compensation is awarded to you, the Employment Tribunal could give you separate awards, one against your employer and one against the person or people responsible for the harassment.

Compensation for sexual harassment can include an award for financial loss and for injury to feelings and there is no cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded. You can also make a sexual harassment claim at any point during your employment, as there is no requirement for a particular

Can you Bring a Claim Whilst Still Employed at the Workplace?

 Yes, you can. It’s understandable that you may be reluctant to bring a harassment claim against another employee at your workplace for fear of being treated differently or the legal action affecting your career. Laws are in place in England and Wales to see that victimisation like this doesn’t happen.

Victimisation Following an Allegation of Sexual Harassment

Regarding victimisation at work, if your employer subjects you to detriment because you’ve engaged in a protected act, then you may be able to bring an additional claim for victimisation under the Equality Act 2010. A protected act in this sense could include making an allegation about sexual harassment or issuing a sexual harassment claim.

If your employer dismisses you because you have made an allegation or issued a sexual harassment claim, then you could potentially have an additional claim for victimisation.

Are There Time Limits for a Sexual Harassment and Victimisation Claims?

There are strict time limits for making a sexual harassment and victimisation claims. This is usually three months less one day from the act of sexual harassment or victimisation, or the last in a series of acts which are linked. You should also be aware that you will have to complete Early Conciliation with ACAS before starting your claim. This process will aim to reach an agreement without the need to go to an Employment Tribunal.

During Early Conciliation, any time limits will be paused, so completing this process won’t affect you making a claim. Because of the short time limit, it’s important to get advice from a specialist Employment Law Solicitor as soon as possible so you know exactly where you stand.

If you have experienced circumstances similar to those mentioned in this article and would like more information on bringing a sexual harassment at work claim, contact us today to speak to one of our Employment Law experts.

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What’s the Difference Between a Sexual Harassment and Abuse Claim?

The case of Ms A v Mr M Hill was brought through the Employment Tribunal. It may also be possible to bring a claim for compensation though the civil courts.  Such claims work differently to Employment Tribunal claims. For more information, see Sexual Harassment Claims | Civil Court vs Employment Tribunal | UK (simpsonmillar.co.uk)