harassment claim

Costly £50,000 penalty for Harassment Claim vs Lidl at Tribunal

Costly £50,000 payout for Harassment Claim vs Lidl at Tribunal

£50,000 payout for a Harassment Claim. Don’t believe us? Neither would Lidl Great Britain Limited until they landed such a penalty!

Hunter v Lidl Great Britain Limited 2023 heard how the employee had received unwanted sexual harassment on several occasions from a colleague. This included asking for her number, stating she would look good in underwear the store was selling, and making sexual advances. The employee reported this to their manager only to be told she should take it as a compliment.

As the first attempt at raising the issue failed the employee complained again only to be told by the store manager he was not surprised and laughed it off. A written complaint followed to which she got no reply. No investigation took place they simply moved these employees onto different shifts.

Hunter then gave her resignation which followed with a claim against the company for harassment and unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal were critical of how the company dealt with the harassment claim. They noted a lack of staff training and a lack of training for managers. This demonstrated there was an acceptance of such behaviours and closed their eyes and ears to a culture of harassment that existed in their workplace.

The employee was awarded over £50,000.

What Lidl should have done

When an employee raises a complaint of any nature, in this instance harassment, the manager should have begun an investigation immediately. The safety of the employee ought to have been considered. Steps should have been taken to reassure her she had done the right thing.

The employee should have already had access to the company handbook or policy to see the process clearly. In the absence of this, the employee should have been furnished with the policy immediately.

An impartial investigating manager should have been appointed to question the other employee and any witnesses.

The investigation manager would then conclude their investigation. A recommendation should have been made, such as formal action and the disciplinary process be invoked.

The harassed employee should be reassured, updated, and protected against victimisation.

Bullying and harassment

Harassment, in the UK under the Equality Act 2010, is defined as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for an individual’.

Whilst there is no specific definition of bullying under UK law, Acas describe it as ‘unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either: offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting; an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone’.

What are behaviours linked to bullying and harassment?

The behaviours can range across a spectrum of minor random instances to extreme forms such as physical violence. A more subtle extreme form may be ignoring or excluding someone, some examples of these behaviours are:

  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Unwelcome comments about age, clothing, appearance, race, marital status, jokes at the expense of an individual, offensive language, gossip, and slander.
  • Exclusion or isolation
  • Pressure to participate in political or religious groups
  • Intrusion from pestering, stalking or spying
  • Regular unwanted criticism
  • Person insults
  • Unwelcome comments of a sexual nature

In the UK, it is unlawful to harass someone because they have a protected characteristic, these are below:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

How to deal with harassment and bullying in the workplace

Bullying is more complex as the law in the UK doesn’t offer a single piece of legislation that deals with this in the workplace.

Employers in the UK are encouraged to have a well-communicated policy and guidance in place that clearly states the organisation’s commitment to promoting dignity and respect in the workplace. Promoting a positive respectful culture in the workplace will help to prevent inappropriate behaviour from starting. In addition, employees will observe a zero-tolerance stance from your business with action taken.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure employees are comfortable reporting instances of bullying and harassment. You need to establish simple, uncomplicated avenues and processes that demonstrate confidentiality and protection against victimisation. Your workforce should know that you will protect them.

Businesses should:

  • Implement anti-bullying policies
  • Provide training to all staff
  • Train managers on how to deal with bullying and harassment
  • Provide regular training in equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Have a clearly defined process that can be activated without delay.

The Amendment of Equality Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 26th October 2023

Employers will become responsible for taking steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the workplace.

Future Employment Tribunal awards will be increased by up to 25% where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.

This means that employers claiming they have a policy in place and a record of training will not be sufficient. What the new law is looking for is evidence that employers can demonstrate they are reviewing and refreshing their harassment policies and reporting procedures. As well as carrying out regular training sessions and refresher training.

Any burden of proof will be on the employer to demonstrate what they have done to tackle sexual harassment. Are you ready for this new ruling?

Can you remember when you last reviewed this policy or took part in equality, diversity and inclusion training?

How can we help at HPC?

Our experts at HPC can help you be ready by ensuring you have policies to prevent sexual harassment in place. We can also offer staff training on what is not acceptable behaviour.

To find out more information or if you require any advice regarding the new regulations, get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037

E: contact@hpc.uk.com

LinkedIn: High Performance Consultancy

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