Making sense of sexual harassment in the workplace

A law firm is launching a campaign to highlight sexual harassment in the workplace and will be providing free advice on the subject later in the year.

sexual harassment at work by male employer on female employee


Martin Searle Solicitors are launching a campaign this November to help prevent sexual  harassment in the workplace. This includes a free telephone advice line for employers and employees concerned about inappropriate conduct in the workplace which could constitute sexual harassment. To support their campaign, they are producing a series of factsheets, case studies and FAQs for employers and employees covering sexual harassment in the workplace, like the one below, which are being posted on their website from this week.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:

  • violates your dignity
  • makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
  • creates a hostile or offensive environment
  • You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted. This applies to one-off incidents and ongoing incidents.

This protection comes from both employment law and criminal law, depending on the circumstances involved. Both men and women can be sexually harassed, although it is more common for it to happen to women. There is also protection if you have been treated less favourably because you have rejected or submitted to unwanted sexual conduct.

Sexual harassment includes:

  • written or verbal comments of a sexual nature, such as remarks about a workers’ appearance, questions about your sex life or offensive jokes
  • your employer or colleagues displaying pornographic or explicit images receiving unwanted emails with content of a sexual nature
  • unwanted physical contact and touching sexual assault.

Your employer should have a clear policy on sexual harassment which sets out what sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

Some types of sexual harassment, such as sexual assault and other physical threats, are a criminal matter as well as an employment matter. Criminal matters should be reported to the police by calling 999 if someone is in immediate danger, or 101 if the crime is not an emergency.

Making a complaint of sexual harassment

If you believe you have been sexually harassed, or have witnessed sexual harassment taking place, you need to raise a formal grievance about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Check your organisation’s policies on sexual harassment to see who you should make your grievance to. If there is no policy, they will be required to follow the Acas Disiplinary and Grievance Code of Practice.

You may also want to contact expert sexual harassment solicitors who can help you raise a formal grievance. If you have been dismissed or are being disciplined for rejecting any unwanted sexual content, then you may need to seek legal representation at an Employment Tribunal.

*Throughout November, on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4pm to 6pm, Martin Searle Solicitors’ Employment Law team will provide free legal advice that will help employees understand their rights around sexual harassment, and provide advice to employers on creating a working environment where all employees feel safe and are supported by their employer. 

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