This document is part of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace resource.
4.1 The various forms of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace may take various forms and can be directed at, and perpetrated by, all persons including male, female, transgender and gender diverse. It may be physical, spoken or written (including on social media or via email or text message) and may include, but is not limited to:
- unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature;
- comments or questions of a sexual nature about a person’s private life or their appearance;
- sexually suggestive behaviour, such as leering or staring or offensive gestures;
- brushing up against someone, touching, fondling or hugging;
- sexually suggestive comments or jokes;
- displaying offensive screen savers, photos, calendars or objects;
- repeated requests to go out;
- unwanted displays or declarations of affection;
- requests for sex;
- sexually explicit emails, text messages or posts on social networking sites;
- sexual assault, indecent exposure physical assault and stalking (which are also criminal offences); and
- actions or comments of a sexual nature in a person’s presence (even if not directed at that person).
4.2 A single incident can constitute sexual harassment
A single incident can constitute sexual harassment; there is no requirement that unwelcome conduct be repeated. Equally, a broader pattern of behaviour can also constitute sexual harassment.
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 provide that sexual harassment occurs in circumstances in which the conduct was unwelcome and a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Sexual harassment can still occur even when a harasser does not intend it. Motive is irrelevant; the test focuses on how the behaviour is received by the other person. It is the responsibility of all staff to ensure that they do not engage in any behaviour that could amount to sexual harassment.