New Acas guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace published

Thursday 7th December 2017

With the issue of sexual harassment currently in the headlines and under the spotlight, Acas has published timely new guidance on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, how it can be reported and how investigations into allegations of sexual harassment should be handled by employers.

The guidance confirms that sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and can take the form of:

  • Written or verbal comments of a sexual nature such as remarks about a colleague’s appearance, questions about their sex life or offensive jokes
  • Displaying pornographic or explicit images
  • Sending or forwarding on emails that contains content of a sexual nature
  • Unwanted physical contact and touching
  • Sexual assault – this is also a criminal offence

Acas states that any worker who feels they have been sexually harassed or has witnessed sexual harassment can make a complaint, and employers should ensure there are policies in place to facilitate such a complaint.

The guidance reminds employers that experiencing sexual harassment can be extremely distressing and that any complaints should be handled sensitively. This may include:

  • Allowing plenty of time to discuss the matter
  • Using a private space to meet
  • Allowing the worker to be accompanied to any grievance meeting by a colleague, a trade union representative, or even a friend or family member if the employment contract allows it or at the discretion of the employer

Comment:      It is beneficial for employers and employees alike for organisations to have adequate procedures in place to properly investigate and deal with allegations of sexual harassment, particularly given the current high profile of the issue.  The full Acas guidance can be found at:


Read our full Legal Update for 7 December 2017