SEXUAL harassment has loomed large in the media this last few weeks, thanks initially to film mogul Harvey Wienstein.
However, the everyday reality of this unpleasant behaviour is usually not as overt as Mr Wienstein’s overbearing approaches to young women to come into his hotel room/nearest bathroom/trousers.
As is now emerging, this kind of harassment can be a sly hand on a knee, a quiet proposition or lunging in for a kiss. Or, it may be even more subtle: invading personal space on a regular basis, quietly making suggestive remarks or asking embarrassing questions.
It’s particularly unpleasant when it happens at work – to men or women – and it’s sometimes a form of bullying because it often occurs when people with power flex their muscles.
Acas – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service which provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees about the workplace – suggests trying to sort it out informally first.
If this fails, discuss the problem with someone in HR or a company counsellor, talk to your trade union or staff representative, and keep a diary of all incidents including dates, times, witnesses etc as well as any relevant emails or notes.
Like bullying, employers should take action against anyone harassing someone else because, apart from the individual toll, it can make any workplace very unhappy and unproductive. They can take action like creating a formal policy, setting good examples and ensuring there’s a fair procedure available for complaints.
No-one should have to put up with unacceptable behaviour from other people and companies have a duty to ensure this. Not everyone reacts like journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer who threatened to punch former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in the face if he put his hand on her knee again. But you’d like to think you might.