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Lessons for business from the #metoo headlines

Following the allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein and other leading figures, businesses need to make sure they have clear policies to inspire the right culture in their workplace.

The initial revelations about the Hollywood mogul inspired many to open up about their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment, flooding social media with millions of posts and tweets using the hashtag #metoo.

That response was reflected, also, in figures from a ComRes poll on behalf of the BBC, which showed that more than half of all British women and a fifth of all men had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their place of work or study.

Such harassment may come in many forms, but includes any unwelcome sexual advances, whether by touching, standing too close, asking for sexual favours, or displaying offensive materials. Employees are protected in the workplace by the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful for an employer to allow any job applicant or employee to be subject to any harassment related to sex or of a sexual nature.

The research commissioned by the BBC showed that many who had suffered sexual harassment at work could not face the process of reporting an incident. Of those who said they had been harassed, 63% of women and 79% of men said they didn’t report it to anyone.

Many employees will not report incidents because they are embarrassed or ashamed, or may feel they will not be believed, as it is usually one person’s word against another. Any complaint must be brought within three months and the individual must be prepared to prove the conduct was ‘unwanted’. This makes it difficult, as there are often circumstances where those being harassed may feel a passive position is the safest way to handle the situation, so the other party may argue it was mutual. Similarly, different people may have different ideas of what is acceptable; someone might think it’s ok to make racy jokes or engage in ‘banter’ or flirting, where the other may find it offensive or humiliating.

Resources published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and conciliation service ACAS recommend that every business has a written policy, setting out how harassment at work is unlawful and making sure all staff understand that such behaviour will not be tolerated and may be treated as a disciplinary offence. Examples of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour may help people understand the boundaries, particularly if they are relying on what may have seemed acceptable in previous years, together with guidance to staff on how to respond and deal with such behaviour. Then, most importantly, a clear process for what steps the organisation will take if anyone feels they have been subject to any form of harassment, including a safe environment for reporting and handling any complaints.

If you have any concerns as either an employee or employer contact our employment team for advice on 01202 294411.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Family finances make divorce negotiations increasingly complex

Divorce rates are on the rise, according to the latest statistics, and with the increase in the value of family assets, couples should be more open to making arrangements in respect of their financial affairs during the good times according to professionals.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the overall rate of divorce for opposite-sex couples has increased for the first time since 2009, at 5.8% in 2016, with men and women aged 45 to 49 recording the highest number of divorces. Women continue to be more likely to petition for divorce in opposite-sex marriages, at 61% in 2016, and this trend was reflected among same-sex couples, with female couples accounting for 78% of such divorces. The most common ground for divorce continues to be unreasonable behaviour, with 36% of all husbands and 51% of all wives petitioning for divorce on this ground. Continue reading

How enforceable is the Living Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) has ensured that everyone gets a minimum amount of pay per hour, anyone paid less than this can bring a legal claim against their employer for the difference in pay received and the NMW.

However, the government has introduced the National Living Wage (NLW), which is mandatory for workers aged 25 and above, and is currently set at £7.50.  For workers aged under 25, though, the NLW is not mandatory, and employers can choose either to pay them more, or to stick to the mandatory NMW. It’s important to remember that the National Minimum Wage is mandatory across the board, regardless of an employee’s age. Continue reading

Can’t pay – Can they really take it away?

The popularity of programmes portraying the day to day encounters that High Court Enforcement Officers have with individuals and businesses highlights the sheer amount of personal and business debt in the UK today.  According to figures provided by the Money Charity, it is thought that the average debt per adult (including mortgage payments) is £30,277.  This is more than 114% of the average wage. Continue reading

The Rights of Grandparents

In a divorce, nobody really comes out of the process a ‘winner’. Difficulties between former spouses can sour relationships not just between them, but throughout the wider family group too. Courts do their very best to protect the interests and the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of the family, the children. What about the older relatives? In a divorce situation, what rights do grandparents have, and how should they deal with what is always a very painful and emotional situation? Continue reading

Naomi House & Jacksplace Will Fortnight

We are once again pleased to be supporting Naomi House and Jacksplace with their will fortnight.

https://www.naomihouse.org.uk/events/334-make-your-will-fortnight

This will run until the 10th November, so if you need a Will and would rather make a donation to this very worthwhile local charity then please contact our Private Client teams at either the Lansdowne or Highcliffe Office for further information.



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