Sexual harassment - the darker side of the office party

While many joke about the pitfalls of doing something silly on a work night out at Christmas, there is also the darker issue of sexual harassment by a colleague._x000D_
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The majority of sexual harassment cases brought before the Employment Tribunal are brought by women.  A total of 52% of women surveyed by the Trade Union Congress’ everyday sexism project have experienced some form of sexual harassment connected with their employment._x000D_
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The definition of sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour related to sex, or of a sexual nature, which violates the person’s dignity. This can include derogatory comments, unwanted touching and groping, sexual gestures, sexual advances, suggestive dancing and in worse cases, sexual assault and rape._x000D_
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Priya Cunningham, an employment law specialist at Scottish law firm Watermans Solicitors, said: “In order for the behaviour to be unwanted, or unwelcome, the person does not need to have specifically objected to the behaviour._x000D_
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“We seem to have moved on, partially, from a blame culture where women are somehow to blame if they don’t protest loud enough about the harassment they are subjected to._x000D_
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“However, attitudes still exist where a woman is to blame if she is dressed a certain way or if she behaves a certain way._x000D_
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“It is not an excuse to say that the behaviour from the perpetrator was just a bit of banter, and an employer cannot brush off the behaviour of their employee with this excuse.”_x000D_
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Priya commented that many people still might know that conduct of another employee or of a boss on a works night out is still in the “course of employment” and their employer has an obligation to investigate any complaints harassment that the woman might have been subjected to._x000D_
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As a result of this, victims often don’t report the harassment to their employer. And it is particularly difficult for them to report harassment if their direct boss is the perpetrator._x000D_
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Younger women and trainees or junior members of staff can be particularly vulnerable. Over a fifth of women report that they have been harassed by their boss or someone in power._x000D_
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The Harvey Weinstein scandal has recently highlighted the abuse that can occur where a power imbalance exists._x000D_
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In October, senior solicitor Ryan Beckwith was disciplined by his regulator and fined for engaging in sexual activity with one of his junior colleagues after a night out when she was so intoxicated that she struggled to walk._x000D_
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Any senior member of staff in charge of junior staff holds a great deal of responsibility and sadly this is a position that can often be abused._x000D_
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A Law Firm based in London is proposing fines for Partners who abuse their position of power. This is a positive step forward, however this is only going to be effective in cases where women report harassment._x000D_
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Priya continued: “Despite making inroads and moving away from a blame culture, women can be afraid to speak out._x000D_
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“Of the women who admit that they have been sexually harassed by a colleague, more than half say that they have not reported it to their employer. There can be a number of reasons for this such as fear of not being believed, or the woman can be afraid that it will impact on their career progression._x000D_
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“Even worse, than this is a situation where the harassment is reported and nothing is done. “Employer’s don’t always deal with the situation effectively. E.g in a case of serious assault an employer might not investigate the matter properly. If there are no criminal proceedings, this leaves woman in a difficult position._x000D_
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“Despite this, victims NEED to speak up. The progress of the Me Too movement has shone a light on the issue of harassment and paved the way for women to stand up for their rights.”_x000D_
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People who have assaulted on a works night out may be entitled to compensation. Watermans can assist._x000D_
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