Sexual harassment in the workplace takes a variety of forms ranging from inappropriate comments/jokes/gestures/physical contact or displaying inappropriate/pornographic pictures to serious sexual assault/rape.
The Equality Act 2010 defines it as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim, taking into account the victim’s perception, the other circumstances of the case, and whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect. 
Judgments of the Employment Tribunals and courts help us interpret this law and further guidance is provided by the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s Statutory Code of Practice. 
Unsurprisingly, harassers rarely admit they intended to violate their victim’s dignity; most plead that their motives were innocent. But this is irrelevant if their actions actually had this effect on their victim.
Sexual harassment could be a sustained campaign or just a one off incident – the victim doesn’t need to make the harasser aware that the conduct was unwanted. 
And, even if the victim has engaged in ‘banter’, this is no defence if the conduct goes beyond what the victim was agreeing to, or if the banter was a ‘coping strategy’.
Usually the most cost-effective route to justice for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace is to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal – either against the harasser and/or their employer. 
Such claims must be brought within three months of the last act of harassment and after contacting ACAS to comply with its Early Conciliation scheme. 
Raising a grievance beforehand won’t affect this time limit, but should prevent a 25 per cent reduction in compensation. If this time limit is missed, it may only be possible to bring a claim in the Civil Courts and only if there have been at least two acts of sexual harassment. If the conduct also amounts to sexual assault/rape, the police should of course be notified.

Employers must:
• Have and comply with effective anti-harassment and equality and diversity policies
• Be able to prove that they have communicated these policies to all staff and have provided appropriate training
• Promptly investigate concerns raised and take appropriate action.

Contact Slate Legal for help with this: 01633 892438.
Slate Legal is a signatory to the Law Society’s Diversity & Inclusion Charter and backs the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s Working Forward campaign. In April we’ll be giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Equality, Local Government & Communities Committee, to assist its inquiry into pregnancy and maternity discrimination in Wales.