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‘Sex pests’ – the battle goes on

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Sexual harassment knows few, if any boundaries. And sadly, 15 years on from the Sex Discrimination Act, the battle against it is far from won.

Defined by the European Commission as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work, including unwelcome physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct’, it is the bane of many women’s working lives. Men’s too, though less often - the first all-male case came in 1993.

People suffer; business suffers. An EC study has shown that sexual harassment ‘has a direct impact on the profitability of the enterprise….. where employees’ productivity is reduced by having to work in a climate in which an individual’s integrity is not respected’.

Even under the SDA, which outlawed it, there is no legal definition of sexual harassment. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) gives examples: comments about the way you look, indecent remarks, questions or comments about your sex life, requests for sexual favours – and "any conduct of a sexual nature which creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment for you."

If you believe you have been on the receiving end of such treatment – even during the recruitment process – you should consult the EOC for advice. Its head office is at Overseas House, Quay Street, Manchester M3 3HN (telephone 0161 833 9244). And don’t hold back from complaining to senior management for fear of losing your job. If you are either sacked for complaining, or forced to resign because of the atmosphere your complaint has created, that will actually increase your compensation when you win your case.


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