As employers we can often be blind to the potential for men to be sexually harassed by women and other men. We shouldn’t be. It is as old as the hills!
Sexual harassment is defined “any kind of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel humiliated or intimidated, or that creates a hostile environment“.
Over the years we have supported our clients dealing with sexual harassment by words, and actions and incidents of sexual assault in the workplace. Employers should always aim to create a culture where such sexual harassment is not tolerated and to ensure that any incidents of sexual assault are passed to the police to investigate.
Why don’t men report incidents of sexual assault?
It is accepted that men are less likely to report that they are on the receiving end of unwanted attention and will often ‘laugh it off’ or ‘brush it under the carpet’. In 2022, following the Me Too movement, we should be prepared for allegations to be made, some of which might be difficult to investigate as they will be historical. However in order to ensure that victims and alleged perpetrators are treated fairly, a robust investigation should always be instigated when allegations are made.
In the recent case of a Scottish MP suspended by his party for allegations regarding his conduct, he was thrown against a fridge by a man that it is alleged he had just fondled. We believe this should make us think as to whether there is the potential that when we are dealing with workplace disputes between two parties that an incident of a sexual nature has pre-dated the dispute. If men don’t tell, we don’t know, but sensitive questions should be asked as to what led to the dispute and whether there is anything that has happened that we need to know.
Men are also less likely than women to report sexual harassment by women. Again, we understand they are likely to ‘sweep it aside as banter’. They shouldn’t. Sexual harassment can be unwanted touching, stroking, kissing and more recently sending images of a sexually suggestive nature on group chats.
We understand that a man was once the victim of a women half his size grabbing him by the genitals at work. She hadn’t liked what he had said to her and that was her way of showing her displeasure. Like all forms of sexual assault this wasn’t about sex, it was about power. The incident left the man powerless. It only came to light when he broke down in tears to his wife at home and she reported the incident to HR.
So what can employers do to tackle sexual harassment against men.
1. Create a culture that has a zero tolerance of any form of harassment.
2. Train managers to spot the signs and how to conduct a fair and robust investigation.
3. Train staff in Bullying & Harassment.
4. Ensure your policies on Bullying, Harassment, and Equal Opportunities are read and understood.
5. Have a whistleblowing policy and make it clear how information can be passed on.
6. Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme, so your employees have somewhere to go for support.
If you need any assistance managing allegations of sexual harassment against men in your workplace, please call us on 01527 909436.