Sexual harassment against women in the workplace is often spoken about but this type of behaviour towards male employees is becoming increasingly reported. Men in the workplace may be hesitant to report sexual harassment out of fear of not being taken seriously or ridiculed, however this does not mean to say that it is not happening!
Sexual harassment can be intended, or unintended, unwanted behaviour, and is often based upon how an individual perceives a situation. This can include: written or verbal comments of an inappropriate nature including remarks about an employee’s appearance, questions about their personal life, offensive jokes, Propositions or advances. This type of behaviour even outside of work or over social media platforms can be viewed as sexual harassment, particularly if it is coming from a person of workplace seniority.
Data from the Government Equalities Office’s Sexual Harassment Survey in 2020 found that men also experience considerable levels of sexual harassment in the workplace. Around 34% of men reported that they had experienced at least one form of sexual harassment within the previous 12 months of the study.
It is reported that more than one in ten complaints of sexual harassment cases at work are reported by men and worryingly only 17% of sexually harassed male employees report it to their employer.
In June this year, an employee won an Employment Tribunal against supermarket chain “Asda” which shows the importance of dealing with these matters seriously as courts are recognising sexual harassment in the workplace towards men. This case centred around so called ‘banter’ and a male and a female had what was described by the female employee as a playful work relationship. However, the male employee stated that the treatment he received from the female employee wasn’t the result of banter, he felt humiliated, and this was harassment. The male employee claimed that if the victim were a female the company would have taken pro-active action and indeed, the Employment Tribunal found that Asda did not deal with the matter promptly nor effectively.
In another reported sexual harassment case from November 2022, A council manager lost her job for sexually harassing three of her male colleagues before making false accusations of being a victim herself.
There is not as much conversation in society acknowledging that males can also be workplace victims. However, these cases highlight that it is essential that employers are aware of the behaviour of all employees and promote a culture of dignity and respect amongst all employees.
At advo, we discuss with employers how they should manage these situations and would always recommend that care should be taken. In this sort of a situation, we would always suggest that all allegations are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated, recording all conversations in writing.
Sexual harassment can have a devastating impact on an employee’s wellbeing and can be prevented through initiative-taking action and culture change by employers. Employers should have robust policies in place to minimise the possibility of this type of behaviour and to have a clear and transparent way to report such matters.
To minimise and mitigate the risk of any form of harassment, advo would recommend that employers lead by example, train all employees and are able to show that any inappropriate comments are not acceptable. This would include encouraging managers and employees to report others if they witness inappropriate behaviour.
Regardless of gender, it is important to be cautious with how we behave in the workplace to prevent perception of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct.
If you require advice relating to any employee matters, please contact the HR team at advo and we would always be happy to assist you.