Harassment comprises unwanted behaviour which affects an employee’s dignity at work. It may be related to race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age or marital status. Victims of harassment may be shouted at, called names, excluded from conversations, put down for the way in which they dress or speak, denied certain benefits or overlooked for promotion. Harassment can cause considerable stress and can completely destroy an employee’s self-esteem. It is for these reasons that such behaviour should not be tolerated.

Keeping a Log of Events
Employees who are being harassed in the workplace should not suffer in silence – they should keep a detailed diary documenting any incidents of harassment, including the time and date on which these incidents took place and the individual(s) responsible. They should also ask a trusted colleague to note down their own observations whenever an incident of harassment occurs.

Confronting the Perpetrator
Employees who feel confident enough to confront the individual(s) whom they believe to be behind the harassment should explain their feelings to them and request that they change their behaviour. It is not uncommon for the accused to state that they are completely unaware of the damaging effects of their actions.

Harassment Policies
If their behaviour persists, it will be necessary for an employee to consult with a third party. Employers should have a policy on harassment in the workplace, which will provide guidance on the best course of action to take. Organisations that have put together a harassment policy will often have trained one of more of their staff members to deal with harassment in the workplace. These staff members may be employed in the HR department or may form of a part of the management team.

Informal Resolutions
In the absence of a policy on harassment, it may be necessary for an employee to use an organisation’s grievance procedure to lodge a complaint. Once a complaint has been raised, an informal resolution will be sought with the aid of a senior staff member. If an employee is being harassed by their manager, their employer should ensure that complaints are handled by another manager.

Formal Resolutions
If an informal resolution proves unsuccessful, the matter will have to be dealt with formally, which will include attendance at a grievance meeting. Employees have a legal right to be accompanied at such a meeting.

Employment Tribunals
The grievance procedure should remove the need for further formal action. However, if an employee remains dissatisfied, it may be possible for them to take their case to an employment tribunal. Employment tribunal claims must usually be made within a maximum of three months of the incident(s) of harassment and should only be pursued following receiving advice from a legal professional. In extreme cases, it may be possible for an employee to instigate legal action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Harassment should not be tolerated and should be dealt with in a timely manner. Employees who are being harassed in the workplace should turn to the Citizens Advice Bureau, Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), the Law Centre or – if they have the funds – an employment law solicitor. Trade union representatives and trusted sources of online legal advice can also prove helpful.