Failed to act on reports of sexual harassment resulted in tribunal
An employment tribunal has heard that an HR Director allegedly “sat on” reports of sexual harassment by a consultant working for Selafield, the nuclear decommissioning authority. She claimed that her contract was ended after she blew the whistle on work harassment.
The worker was contracted as a consultant to provide support with an equality, diversity and inclusion remit.
The consultant advised the HR Director about an anonymous report alleging sexual harassment which was received through a confidential reporting system in place in the organisation. In a witness statement, the consultant, who was classed as a “worker” and therefore permitted to raise a claim in the employment tribunal, claimed that the HR Director told her: “I’ve sat on this for weeks.”
In addition to this, she claimed that the director also asked her to take part in a covert investigation to look at issues raised in the report. She refused and advised that a formal investigation was conducted. A further suggestion was made to undertake an undercover investigation, using focus groups to ask staff questions.
The tribunal is on-going but the allegations shine a light on reporting sexual harassment and tackling it in the workplace. Sexual harassment is “unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature” and the law protects employees, workers, contractors, self-employed and job applicants from this. The unwanted behaviour must have either violated someone’s dignity, or created a hostile environment for them, whether it was intended or not.
A recent survey by the TUC has found that 52% of women have been victims of unwanted sexual behaviours at work – from groping to inappropriate jokes. It is therefore crucial that employers do all that they can to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Employees must be clear that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and aware of the consequences of breaching policies and importantly, all complaints must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.