How to Recognise Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Recognise Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Creating a safe and respectful work environment is crucial for any business, both for its ongoing success and the mental well-being of its employees. Ensuring that all employees feel secure and valued is not only a legal responsibility, per the ‘The Worker Protection Act 2023’, but also a moral one. One of the many ways businesses can work toward this is by recognising the signs of sexual harassment in the workplace, which may be hard to spot without the correct training. However, understanding these signs is the first step toward preventing and addressing this pervasive issue.

Understanding the subtle signs of sexual harassment in the workplace

If your employees are suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace, it may not be obvious. It often manifests in subtle ways that can be easily overlooked, especially against the backdrop of a busy work environment. From business owners to directors, management to team leaders, all need to be vigilant and educated on the signs of sexual harassment to protect their employees and maintain a positive work culture.

In this article, we are going to outline 5 signs that may signify your employees are suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace.

  1. Unusual behavioural changes

One of the most common signs of sexual harassment is a noticeable change in an employee’s behaviour. This can include:

  • Increased absenteeism or a sudden drop in productivity
  • Avoidance of certain colleagues or work areas
  • Uncharacteristic anxiety or depression
  • Changes in attire or appearance, often to appear less attractive. These changes can indicate that an employee is experiencing sexual harassment and is trying to cope or avoid further incidents

2. Social withdrawal

    If an employee who has traditionally been very social and engaged in the workplace suddenly becomes withdrawn, this can be a red flag. Social withdrawal in the workplace might include an employee avoiding team lunches, not participating in meetings, or isolating themselves from their peers. This behaviour can be a coping mechanism for dealing with sexual harassment.

    3. Physical signs of distress

      Physical signs can be more challenging to notice but are equally important. Things to look for include:

      • Signs of physical stress such as headaches, fatigue, or difficulty sleeping
      • Unexplained injuries or a general look of discomfort
      • Nervous habits such as nail-biting, fidgeting, or avoiding eye contact. These signs often accompany the emotional distress caused by sexual harassment

      4. Inconsistent performance

        This may sound obvious, but an employee suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace can severely impact that employee’s ability to perform their job effectively. Sudden drops in work quality, missed deadlines, or a general lack of focus can all be signs that something is wrong. So if you recognise these behaviours in an employee we suggest approaching these issues with sensitivity and support rather than immediate reprimand until the root cause is discovered.

        5. Openly hostile or defensive behaviour

          One of the signs of sexual harassment you may observe is that victims may sometimes become openly hostile or defensive as a protective measure. This behaviour can easily be misinterpreted as insubordination or even a poor attitude. Understanding the root cause of such reactions is vital to addressing the underlying issues appropriately.

          Create a culture of openness and support

          Recognising the signs of sexual harassment is only the first step. Creating a culture where employees feel safe to report harassment is crucial. This can be achieved by:

          • Implementing clear preventative sexual harassment policies and procedures for reporting sexual harassment
          • Providing regular preventative sexual harassment training to all employees
          • Ensuring that management is approachable and supportive
          • Taking all reports of sexual harassment seriously and investigating thoroughly

          The importance of preventative sexual harassment training

          Training is a critical component in preventing and addressing sexual harassment. At, we specialise in delivering comprehensive preventative sexual harassment training designed to educate and empower employees and management alike. Our bespoke training programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of your organisation, ensuring that everyone understands their role in creating a safe workplace.

          Our preventative sexual harassment training programs include the importance of recognising the signs of sexual harassment. By educating your team on what to look out for, you can significantly reduce the risk of sexual harassment going unnoticed and unaddressed. This proactive approach not only complies with legal requirements but also fosters a healthier work environment.

          Your role as a leader in taking action

          As someone in a senior position, whether you are the business owner, upper management or team leader, your role is pivotal in both recognising and addressing sexual harassment. Stay vigilant, encourage open communication, and act promptly on any concerns raised. Your commitment to a safe workplace sets the standard for your entire organisation.

          Book with us and protect your team

          If you’re committed to creating a safe and respectful workplace, contact us at today. Our team of experts is here to provide the training and support you need to recognise and address the signs of sexual harassment effectively. Don’t wait until it’s too late – book a training course with us now and take the first step toward a safer work environment.

          By recognising the signs of sexual harassment and taking proactive measures, you can help build a workplace where all employees feel safe, respected, and valued. Let’s work together to eradicate sexual harassment and promote a culture of trust and respect.

          Protect your business and employees from sexual harassment within the workplace.

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