Complaints relating to unwanted attention or sexual violence
Sexual violence can take many forms, it is important that employers deal with such complaints promptly and consistently. Where an employee raises such a complaint or where an employer suspects or becomes aware of it, the employer should handle the matter fairly and sensitively in accordance with their grievance procedure. There may be occasions where it becomes a police matter depending on the circumstances involved.
On occasion an employee may ask for their complaint to be dealt with informally. Their wishes should be respected where possible, but if the nature of the complaint is serious then employers must consider taking a more formal approach to protect the employee, fulfilling their duty of care towards the employee. Employers should discuss this with the victim and seek their consent to agree on the way forward.
A fair and thorough investigation should be conducted as quickly as reasonably practicable and consider what steps are necessary to safeguard the employee in question. This could include anonymising their identity during the investigation, which would also require those involved to maintain strict confidentiality.
Employers should also remember the duties owed to all parties and consider evidence prior to making any judgements until the investigation is completed. The impact of violence or unwanted sexual advances can be debilitating for many victims and their mental health and wellbeing could suffer, resulting in them being protected by equality legislation. It is prudent for employers to consider any reasonable adjustments that may be appropriate in the circumstances.
Employers should at all times aim to protect staff and mitigate the risk of such behaviours by taking preventative measures. These include training, implementing appropriate policies and publishing a zero-tolerance approach towards unacceptable conduct.
Should you require advice and support in managing complaints, contact 121 HR Solutions for a neutral perspective on 0800 9995 121.