Harassment in the news: The potential for more complaints
With the reports of historical sexual harassment in Hollywood and now Parliament, employees may feel increasingly able to come forward with such claims in the workplace. It will therefore be a good idea to make sure that you know what to do if one of your employees makes a complaint.
You need to make sure that you deal with any complaint about a recent – or indeed an historical complaint – in accordance with your anti-harassment and bullying policy (alternatively this may be referred to as your Dignity at Work Policy).
If an individual feels that they have been subject to bullying or harassment as defined in your policy, then they should submit a grievance.
If, when you have followed the grievance procedure, you believe that there is a case to answer, it will need to be addressed with the alleged perpetrator through your disciplinary procedure.
You will need to start both processes with an investigation to gather the evidence. If the allegation is about a recent incident, that may be easier to acquire, but if it is alleged to have happened a while ago, it may be more difficult to assess because witnesses may no longer be employed by your business or any emails or CCTV footage etc. may no longer be available, but as an employer, you are required to attempt a reasonable investigation.
Interviewing both the employee making the complaint and the alleged perpetrator will be important aspects of the investigation. Both are likely to be upset about the situation, so make sure that you remind them of any confidential counselling services you offer etc. as part of your duty of care to the employees.
You should keep in mind that, under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to victimise an employee or worker because they have raised allegations of discrimination, including harassment. Therefore you need to ensure that employees who raise such allegations are treated fairly both by the organisation and other employees.
Such cases can be quite complex, particularly if it is one person’s word against another, so if you have not done this before or need assistance to guide you through the process, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Posted on 13 Nov 2017