Allegations of sexual harassment have filled the press in recent months on a global scale. Most recently, the Time’s Up movement saw most of Hollywood’s biggest stars wearing black to the Golden Globe Awards to stand out against sexual harassment in the industry, as well as across the U.S. This was most notably in response to the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign which drew attention to the widespread nature of sexual harassment.


In response to some of the recent news stories that have emerged, Acas has published new advice on sexual harassment at work, what it is and what can be done about it. The key points to note from this guidance are as follows:

• Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a worker, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
• There are many examples of behaviour that could be considered to be sexual harassment, including making comments about an employee’s appearance, questions about their sex life and unwanted physical contact.
• It is important to remember that sexual harassment can happen to men or women and that you can be sexually harassed by people of the same or opposite sex to you.
• An Employment Tribunal will only consider complaints of sexual harassment if a claim is made within three months of the incident taking place. However, all complaints should be fully reviewed, including any historic allegations made. If complaints include sexual assault or physical threats, this may be a criminal issue and governed by separate legislation and time limits.


The guidance also includes some advice for employers on how to handle any sexual harassment complaints made. Some key points for employers to note are:

• It is important to remember that this can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved, so all complaints should be taken seriously and handled in a fair way.
• Workers accused of sexual harassment must be allowed to be accompanied by a work colleague or a trade union representative at any grievance meeting held.
• All complaints should be handled consistently in line with any existing policies, as well as in reference to the Acas Code of Practice on discipline and grievance issues.

Of course, the best thing for an employer to do is to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the first place. It should be made very clear that it is behaviour that will not be tolerated. The best ways of doing this are to ensure that there are clear policies in place that all employees are made aware of. It would also be recommended for relevant training to be conducted for all staff, but particularly for managers and supervisors.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group (koichiro.nakada@lewissilkin.com) and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (yoko.nakada@lewissilkin.com).
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This information is supplied by Lewis Silkin LLP www.lewissilkin.comm

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