Sexual and everything related to sex is always considered as sensitive topics. Nowadays in the world, especially in the UK, however, sexual harassment is at the high rate, becoming a familiar subject and happening predominantly at the workplace. This issue thus occurs on both two sexes for men and women is now under a gender equality. So what is sexual harassment at a workplace? The United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as:
“unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”.
In other words, it is a behavior that disturbs or bullies other’s sex manifesting by sexual demand, harasses victims by flirting or touching them. The statistics of the Trades Union Congress and the Everyday Sexism Project found that “52% of women had experienced unwanted behavior at work including groping, sexual advances and inappropriate jokes”. This proportion rose by 11% when interviewing 16 to 24-aged girls and women. From these data, sexual harassment In Britain workplace is now a big problem. This paper, based on secondary research, is aimed at providing information about the types, the effects of sexual harassment in British workplace and its solutions.
2. Discussion of findings
2.1. What are the types of workplace sexual harassment?
Based on the purposes, sexual harassment at a workplace can be divided into two main categories: “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” sexual harassment (as defined by the EEOC’s Title VII Guidelines) or “hostile working environment” (as defined by The European Commission, the CEDAW Committee, and the ILO).
In the first type “hostile environment”, sexual harassment can happen when someone is the target of undesirable sexual disturbances, starting with flirtation (disparaging comments, reiterated and annoying demands for rendezvous, dirty jokes, pranks, wind-ups, etc.) and leveled up by sensually unpleasant gestures, stroking, touching or pornographic behaviors. Severely is the sexual assault and rape at the workplace. These occur because of ones’ gender status, becomes more and more brutal, ruthless and omnipresent. These wrongdoing are obviously frequent that involve the victims’ capacity for jobs or the intensity of persecution is worse that with just small skirmishes, they would be affected to be unable to work. (Struthers, A., & Phalan, C., 2016, p.1)
Another way for this type to take place is that the employer discriminates his or her workers by their sexes. This means they offer unpropitious condition of employment to employees but to their gender status. Therefore, the boss considers inequitable engagements, unfairness working hours, work rosters, work duties, wage-rental ratios, job benefits, job assessments, punishments, promotions, vacation as well as termination. (Struthers, A., & Phalan, C., 2016, p.2)
The other type, “quid pro quo” (something for something) is the reciprocation between the employment promotion and the sexual contact. In this type, harassment is also stood for ‘sexual blackmail’. It means that the employer refers to taking advantages of authority by a person, who requests sensual favors, obliging the recipient to decide between consenting and losing certain job benefits (e.g. a wage-hike, a promotion, or even the job itself). (Research study on workplace sexual harassment, in AWARE, 2008). Therefore, gender status is not the only reason for being discriminated or being harassed by sex. An example of this type is when an employer threats to fire an employee if he or she does not give in sexual demands. If this is the tacit consent between insiders, then it is another story. But if this action has happened with one-side disagreement, then it is an illegal behavior. The victim in the case is under pressure of losing a job.
2.2. How does sexual harassment affect British victims?
There is nothing new about sexual harassment at workplace, but the issue is witnessing a tidal wave of recognition and attention. Sexual harassment can wreak havoc on its sufferers and can cause a series of problem. (“How sexual harassment damages a woman’s health”, 2018).
Firstly, sexual harassment can threaten both the victim’s mental and physical health. It can make them lose their self-esteem and it may even queer their personal relationships. Thus, it causes significant stress and anxiety. As physical and emotional health are closely linked, once victims experience mental problems, it can also lead to physical health issues, such as appetite-loss, headaches, weighty matters, and insomnia which may change the hormonal balance, increase the risk of high blood pressure and weaken the immune system. (“The Effects of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”, 2018).
Secondly, it affects employee productivity. When the workers are sexually harassed, their efficiency will be disturbed, causing unpunctuality, absenteeism, negligence, and distraction.
In addition, sexual harassment can lead to financial challenges. Therefore, telling the attorney about any financial consequences of sexual harassment (wage-loss and unpaid-leave) is crucial. Victims may even cope with wider career consequences (loss of job recommendations). Leaving the current position or employer to avoid a hostile work environment is considered.
Finally, workplace sexual harassment impacts directly on global consequences especially the global costs. These costs are high and resulted from absenteeism, reduction in productivity, health issues, turnover-staff, legal protection and responsibility for sexual harassment claims. (“Effects of Sexual Harassment”, 2018). The economy also suffers from retirement and insurance costs.
2.3. Who is legally responsible for workplace sexual harassment in Britain?
The minute employees were sexually harassed, their employers who are the owners, managers, partners, corporate officers or supervisors that control or make workers act under their authorities may possibly be liable if they directly contributed to the harassment.
In addition, they are liable for the harassment when they did not take immediate corrective actions once they knew or should have known this situation or their actions to tackle or prevent this issue did not as efficient as they should be. Employers may be responsible for compensative and punitory damages. Liability may depend on who compelled the harassment and what actions the company took to correct it.
Moreover, State Law demonstrates that the discrimination against employees especially based on their gender status can make supervisors or managers be individually accountable. (Federal law rules that employers must have the minimum at 15 employees this law also applies to a company).
In some cases, a union, an alliance, as well as its delegates or the employment organizations, could also be liable. Furthermore, Religious associations might be answerable even if their protections from liability based on religious freedom are taken.
2.4. What are the solutions to the workplace – sexual harassment in the UK?
To put an end to workplace sexual harassment, the most effective “weapon” against this problem is prevention and it needs the actions from the employers, employees as well as the government to be addressed for this issue does not disappear by itself (“Sexual Harassment – Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, 2018).
With regard to the employers, there are some treatments that employers can take to create a harassment-free workplace, based mainly on guidelines from the British Columbia Human Rights Commission manual Preventing Harassment in the Workplace (“Sexual Harassment – Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, 2018). Firstly, employers have to make it clear that this is a forbid-harassment work place. Secondly, they need to activate a sexual harassment and discrimination training program to provide education and information about harassment to all staffs. Besides, there is necessary to have a “carrot” – a prize to encourage employees to attend the training (“Lackluster Harassment Prevention Training Can Be Turned Around”, 2018). On the other hand, employers should establish an anti-harassment policy. This policy, somehow, should follow the general guidelines from the EEOC. Last but not least, they should investigate promptly, cope with harassment complaints seriously and bring out the disciplines as well as the punishments to the offenders.