It’s over a year now since the #MeToo movement swept across social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
The movement had originally been founded in 2006, but shot to prominence after it was shared as a hashtag as women around the globe revealed their experiences of sexual assault, harassment and abuse at the hands of men.
More than 12 months on, it’s fair to say the issue has fixed itself firmly on the social and political agenda.
But that does not mean that the problem has gone away. Far from it in fact. An Everyday Sexism and TUC survey earlier this year found that 52 per cent of women say they have suffered some form of sexual harassment at work.
It’s almost too depressing a figure to contemplate. Add to it the fact that around half the women who reported an incident said their employer took no action and you can see just how deeply ingrained the problem seems to be.
Sexual harassment, of course, takes many forms.
It’s not just about men making unwanted advances, touching inappropriately or even attacking their female colleagues.
It could be a colleague putting up a pornographic calendar which causes his female co-workers distress or sending an email with explicit pictures in it.
It might even be sexually-explicit jokes or banter or suggestive comments about a woman’s appearance.
Whatever form the harassment takes, if you think you’re being targeted you should do something about it as soon as possible.
Start by telling your line manager – preferably in an email so that you have an exact record of the date and time you raised the issue. Of course, if it is your line manager you are complaining about, then address your concerns to someone else in a position of authority who can handle your complaint.
If your manager takes no action, or tries to talk you out of complaining, raise a formal grievance with your company’s HR department. It is important that you keep a copy of any correspondence involved in this process so that you have evidence of what you have said and how it has been dealt with.
Importantly, you should keep any evidence which supports your claim. This might be emails, notes of comments made or inappropriate behaviour and statements from colleagues who may have witnessed what happened. Make sure you record the date, time and location so that you have a clear record for the future.
It is also worth considering getting some independent advice at this stage. A company such as HR Solutions Shropshire can tell you exactly how your complaint should be handled and what you should expect. We can also offer a free consultation to talk through the issues around your grievance. Just click on the link on this page.
And it’s also worth gathering contextual evidence to support your claim. Does your company have clear guidelines and policies in place to control behaviour? Have employees been offered training so that they understand how their actions can affect others? Has your manager taken your complaint seriously and were you able to report it without any fear of victimisation?
Remember, employers have a duty of care and must abide by the laws governing sexual harassment. If you can show they have a lax attitude in these areas then you will help strengthen your case.
Crucially, remember you are not alone, and sexual harassment is never your fault. You have a right to be treated professionally at all times and by all colleagues. If the worst happens, we are happy to help get you the justice you deserve.