Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct as a whole within the workplace cause numerous significant issues for businesses and the individuals affected.

The legal responsibility and the ramifications for companies and people who engage in sexual misconduct are finally being recognised with the introduction of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023.

Remember that each situation is unique, and these FAQs are meant to provide general guidance only and should not be relied on as binding. Our experience has dictated us to compile the most common questions asked.

It’s important to consult your organisation’s sexual harassment policy. You may wish to consult with your own legal advisors for specific advice on handling sexual misconduct within your work environment. We are more than happy to offer our consultancy services.

We use the term “Sexual Misconduct” as an umbrella term to cover most occurrences.


What is sexual misconduct in a work environment?

Sexual misconduct (known generally as sexual harassment) in a work environment refers to any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive workplace for employees. It can include actions such as harassment, unwanted advances, comments, or any form of inappropriate behaviour.

What are some examples of sexual misconduct at work?

Examples of sexual misconduct at work may include unwanted sexual advances, explicit comments, distributing inappropriate materials, offensive jokes, touching without consent (this is known as sexual assault), and any other actions that create a hostile or uncomfortable environment.

How can I identify if I’m experiencing or witnessing sexual misconduct at work?

Signs of sexual misconduct may include unwanted attention, explicit remarks, unwanted sexual intent text messages, unwelcome touching, requests for sexual favours, demeaning comments, or changes in behaviour, mood, or performance due to discomfort.

What should I do if I experience or witness sexual misconduct at work?

If you believe you are a victim of sexual misconduct, your first step should be to ensure your safety.

If you experience or witness sexual misconduct, it’s important to report it immediately to your HR department or designated authority. Maintain any evidence, such as emails or messages, and consider seeking support from colleagues, friends, or professional counsellors.

Your Human Resources or designated authority must follow your company’s designated reporting procedures.

How can I support colleagues who have experienced sexual misconduct?

Offer empathetic listening (we advise unless you are qualified to do so, do not validate their feelings, as this later could and may have legal ramifications), but you should encourage them to report the incident. Respect their decisions about how to proceed and remind them of available resources such as counselling or legal support.

What if I’m uncomfortable reporting the incident to HR or a designated authority within my company?

It is advisable to follow your company’s procedures, however, once your company procedures are followed and you are still not satisfied or if you’re uncomfortable reporting to your company’s HR or designated authority, you can seek guidance from an external resource, such as a union representative, or you may wish to seek independent legal advice.

Can I choose to remain anonymous when reporting sexual misconduct?

Many organisations allow for anonymous reporting, but it’s important to check your company’s policies. While anonymous reports can be helpful, providing your identity can assist in a more thorough investigation.

This area is covered within our enhanced awareness training course.

When should I report sexual misconduct?

Report the misconduct to your HR or designated authority immediately. Over the passage of time, people’s memories fade, therefore we advise the sooner the better, this can ensure the matter will not escalate further.

Cooperate with any investigations and be prepared to provide evidence if necessary. Follow your company’s policies and procedures for addressing these emotional issues.

What protections are available for individuals reporting sexual misconduct?

Your company must have policies in place to safeguard those who come forward. Reporting incidents should not lead to retaliation or adverse consequences. Your employers must take reasonable steps to ensure anyone who reports sexual misconduct will be protected. encourages whistleblowing.

How can employers create a safe work environment free from sexual misconduct?

Employers should have a clear anti-sexual misconduct policy. Regularly communicate these policies and encourage open dialogue about respectful workplace interactions. Please see our The Law page for further statutory requirements.

The problem is how the training is presented, in our experience, “on the shelf” e-learning, just tick-the-box training that many providers offer does not hit the spot and seems counterintuitive, typically mandatory sexual misconduct training, which sends the message that “we” have to be forced to pay attention to the issue and it focuses on unacceptable behaviours, We, as experts, understand that despite the fact that providing education and awareness on this notoriously difficult subject is complex, it is also undeniably important.

Stop Sexual Misconduct Within the Workplace awareness training leads to effective and nuanced communication.

For further information please visit: Awareness Training

How can I gather evidence if I experience or witness sexual misconduct?

If safe to do so, save any relevant messages, emails, or documents that could serve as evidence. Write down details of incidents, including dates, times, locations, and descriptions. Keep a record of any witnesses who can corroborate your account.

Can bystanders play a role in preventing sexual misconduct?

Yes, bystanders can play a crucial role by intervening or reporting incidents they witness. Creating a culture where bystanders feel empowered to speak up helps create a safer work environment for everyone. This is known as Active Bystander Intervention.

For further information please visit:  active bystander intervention awareness training

Is there a difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace?

Yes, sexual harassment typically involves unwanted sexual advances, comments, or conduct that create a hostile work environment.

Sexual assault involves any non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature and is a criminal offence. If the allegation is related to sexual assault whereby the accused is charged and later found guilty then they may well appear on the Sexual Offences Register (SOR) or have a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) placed on them.

Both are serious and should be addressed promptly.

How can I differentiate between consensual romantic relationships and sexual misconduct in the workplace?

Consensual relationships should be based on mutual respect and should not adversely affect the work environment. However, relationships with power dynamics, such as between a supervisor and a subordinate, can create conflicts of interest and should be disclosed to HR or a person in authority.

Can sexual misconduct occur in remote or virtual work settings?

Yes, sexual misconduct can occur in any work environment, including remote or virtual settings. Inappropriate comments, messages, or actions conducted through online platforms also qualify as sexual misconduct.

What is “quid pro quo” sexual harassment?

“Quid pro quo” harassment occurs when employment decisions, such as promotions or pay rises, are contingent upon an employee’s submission to sexual advances or demands. This is an extremely serious form of sexual misconduct.

What is the role of Human Resources, or Designated Authority*, in addressing sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and sexual assault?

HR* plays a vital role in investigating and addressing any form of sexual misconduct complaints. They must handle reports confidentially, conduct thorough investigations, and take appropriate actions based on their findings.

In allegations which relate to sexual assault, HR should report the matter to the police. There are some situations where not doing so is a criminal offence, this depends on the circumstances of each case, if you are unsure you must consult with your legal advisors.

Can I request a transfer or change of work environment if I’m uncomfortable?

Depending on the circumstances and company policies, you may be able to request a transfer or change of work environment to ensure your safety and well-being.

Is there a time limit for reporting sexual misconduct incidents?

Time limits, known as statutes of limitations, vary and the nature of the incident. It’s generally advisable to report as soon as possible, but legal deadlines may differ, you should seek independent legal advice

Can individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct seek external legal assistance?

The law is there to protect you, if your employer dismisses your allegations, there are a number of avenues you can take. Individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct in any form can consult with legal professionals to understand their rights and explore potential legal actions against those accused or the company they work for.


  • You are entitled to seek independent legal advice.
  • You can report your employer to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
What are the potential consequences for those found guilty of sexual misconduct at work?

Consequences can include disciplinary actions such as warnings, suspension, termination, or legal actions such as compensation depending on the severity of the misconduct and applicable law.

Are there legal implications for organisations that fail to address sexual misconduct?

Absolutely yes, companies that neglect to address sexual misconduct can face serious consequences, including legal and financial penalties. Complying with laws and regulations is crucial to protecting both employees and the organisation.

Legal responsibility and the ramifications for companies and people who engage in sexual misconduct are finally being recognised with the introduction of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023.

A failure by a director (or employer) to comply with that duty is deemed equivalent to a breach of fiduciary duty, notwithstanding the legal obligation to prevent sexual harassment happening in the first place, this is called vicarious liability.


Please see our page The Law.

I’ve been falsely accused of sexual harassment

Employers are required by law to deal with complaints of a sexual nature within the workplace fairly and lawfully as defined within the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023. Handling issues of a sexual nature becomes further complicated if the complainant may be making a false accusation.

While some complainants may be pursuing the complaint for malicious reasons in other sexual misconduct cases, the complainant may genuinely believe their complaint to be valid. Regardless of the intention, unfounded allegations can be distressing for the accused and can be particularly damaging if the allegation is of a serious sexual nature with disciplinary actions often imposed.

Ultimately, the employer must have strict sexual misconduct policies and certified awareness training in place to ensure that a complaint whether true or false is dealt with correctly which can make the difference between resolving the issue in a way that is lawful and fair on all parties, and avoiding an employment tribunal, or a criminal claim being brought against those parties concerned.

How can a company rebuild trust after incidents of sexual misconduct?

Rebuilding trust requires transparent communication, acknowledging mistakes, and implementing corrective measures, such as providing sexual harassment awareness training and providing support.

We at believe the practice of Zero-Tolerance must be implemented to achieve a happy, safe, and friendly work environment.

and finally…

We’re confident you’ll notice something distinct about us! You’ll find us easy to talk to and welcoming, always with a down-to-earth attitude that keeps things simple and jargon-free. is dedicated to delivering a professional service that can significantly benefit your business without stretching your budget.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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

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