Harassment in the workplace refers to unwelcome conduct or behaviour based upon a particular personal characteristic such as age, race, gender, disability, religion or sexuality. This is an objective test which means just because an individual may not consider their behaviour unwelcome, doesn’t mean it isn’t.
When assessing whether conduct is ‘unwelcome’, all circumstances must be considered. It is important to consider the nature of the conduct and whether the ‘victim’ has communicated that the conduct is welcome/unwelcome. It can also be useful to assess the difference between the two individuals. Often, an individual may feel like they can’t speak up if they perceive they are in a position of substantially less power.
Whilst it is possible for someone to suffer bullying and harassment at the same time, harassment can consist of one single incident.
Harassment, like bullying, is unlawful and should be dealt with following the same process of prevention and action: ensuring there is a policy, staff are trained on it and any complaints have sufficient detail and are adequately investigated.