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/ 20 May 2020

Workplace Harassment

Under the Equality Act 2010, there are three situations when workplace harassment workplace is unlawful, giving the employee or worker a right to bring claims for harassment and victimisation against an employer, and potentially claims against the perpetrator co-worker/agent of the employer that harassed them:

  • Harassing conduct that is related to the following relevant protected characteristics: – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
  • Sexual harassment – unwanted conduct of a sexual nature such as sexual jokes, pictures, sexualised looks such as leering, staring or gestures, sexual emails or texts, unwanted touching such as hugging, massaging or kissing.
  • Less favourable treatment of the employee or worker because they submitted to, or rejected, the sexual harassment, or the harassment related to their sex or gender reassignment.

Conduct amounts to harassment when it is unwanted conduct and has the purpose or effect of violating the worker’s dignity, or if the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that worker. Harassment is most commonly perpetrated by a co-worker or agent of the employer. Workplace harassment is unlawful if it is related to the worker’s relevant protected characteristic or the worker’s association with a person with one of the relevant protected characteristics.

For example, race is a relevant protected characteristic. A worker who has Black Caribbean heritage experiences jokes made by a co-worker about their Black Caribbean race, colour or ethnicity. Such conduct would raise claims for race-related harassment against both the employer and the individual co-worker who perpetrated the harassment.

At Hanne & Co we have significant experience of supporting employees and workers to bring claims for sexual harassment and harassment related to their protected characteristics. We have secured successful outcomes for our clients in claims for sexual harassment and sex-related harassment, race-related harassment, sexual-orientation related harassment, and harassment related to religion or belief.

The Hanne & Co Employment Team act for both employees and employers and this gives us particular skill in recognising the risks associated with workplace harassment claims and accurately valuing the claim. We can provide a quick and responsive service to manage the reputational risks that harassment claims invariably bring with them.


Employees and workers are protected from being subjected to detrimental treatment because they have complained about experiencing workplace harassment; or if treated badly by the employer or co-worker because they think the worker will complain about harassment or other discrimination at work.

For example, a complaint by a worker to an employer about race-related harassment at work would be a protected act, and any detrimental treatment by a co-worker or the employer because the worker had made that complaint would amount to unlawful victimisation.

For Employees and Workers

For employees and workers, claims for harassment and victimisation at work are brought in the Employment Tribunal, usually against an employer. A Tribunal claim can also be brought personally against the worker or agent of the employer that perpetrated the harassment or victimisation.

If harassment or victimisation is found to have occurred, the Tribunal will make a declaration to that effect and can award unlimited financial compensation.

For employees or workers who have experienced harassment or victimisation at work, Hanne & Co offer a full legal advice and representation service for harassment and victimisation claims in the Tribunal. We can offer a range of options of funding your legal costs including fixed fee advice and potentially a damages-based agreement.

For Employers – The Reasonable Steps Defence

An employer will not be liable for harassment committed by a worker if it took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment, or if the agent of the employer was acting outside of their authority.

For employers, therefore, it is important to have effective policies and procedures in place that deal with workplace harassment workplace – both sexual harassment and harassment related to a protected characteristic. At Hanne & Co we can provide your business with individualised company policies, procedures and training plans that maximise the prospects of securing a successful “reasonable steps” defence, if any harassment claim is made against the company.

We are experienced in advising businesses on managing the risks associated with harassment and victimisation claims that can lead to unlimited Tribunal awards.

Harassment and Coronavirus

Many workplaces are working in different ways with fewer workers working in the physical workplace and more workers working online and at home. Such workplace changes can bring with them changes in colleagues’ behaviour and conduct toward one another.

Harassment and sexual harassment can occur more frequently when there are less people in the workplace to provide a safer team environment, and online conduct can spill over into being unwanted and likely to cause offence.

Hanne & Co is here for employees who are concerned about experiencing workplace harassment. Please contact us for a confidential chat.

Hanne & Co is also here for employers, to help them navigate the new working environment. We can assist you to develop tailored policies on conduct at work that set out clearly the expected behaviour of workers within these new ways of working. Such preventative steps, taken now, can place the company in a stronger position to avoid harassment and discrimination claims in the future.

Get in touch
Call us on +44 20 7228 0017