+44 (0) 1332 866610 enquiries@precepthr.com

It’s me – hi. I’m the blogger it’s me. Philip Pearson-Batt here, gearing up my Swifty credentials as Taylor Swift is now in the UK and there’s only a few months until I get to see her. You’ll get the full lowdown at the time, don’t worry about that.

At the minute, life in the Pearson-Batt household remains quiet as we plan for our trip to Italy (there is now just over a week to go!) The latest updates are: we’ve booked to see the opera in the open air arena/coliseum in Verona; I’ve booked us onto a secret gondola trip (the joys of knowing Paul doesn’t read my blogs, muhahaha. He will no doubt “hate” every minute of it. Let’s just hope it’s not like when he fell into a pond trying to get out of a kayak) and I have written out our full itinerary for our day trip to Lake Como (because everybody knows that the best kind of fun, is organised fun).

No doubt I will share tales and photos with you when I return which I’m certain you are all looking forward to.

But say. Have you been to one of our Harassment and Banter sessions recently? If not, why not!? They really are very good, even if I do say so myself. Keep your eye out because if you’ve not managed to join us at one, there are some more coming up in the year and you won’t want to miss them.

For now though, let me update you on a fairly recent case involving harassment and banter.

The case of Nunns v SBH Windereme Limited was heard in the Manchester employment tribunal last year. Why am I bringing it up now? Well, because we’ve recently had judgment in terms of remedy and the Claimant was awarded some £34,000 for injury to feelings compensation having found to have been subject to harassment by his employer.

The Claimant began working as head chef at the Windermere Manor Hotel in October 2021. He made allegations that the hotel’s general manager (Mr Wilson who was also named as a Respondent) made inappropriate comments and sexual references to the food, including saying “do you need some time alone dear?” when the Claimant held a cucumber.

Other examples included Mr Wilson faking orgasms when eating food that the Claimant had prepared, hugging the Claimant, kissing him on the forehead and what was described as “mildly dramatised dry humping”. The Claimant also alleged that Mr Wilson sang “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” – a comedy song written by Victoria Wood about a sexually frustrated woman asking her husband to spank her on the bottom with a copy of the Woman’s Weekly magazine – and making eye contact with the Claimant whilst doing so.

The Claimant raised a grievance and unsuccessfully appealed the outcome. He resigned, claiming constructive dismissal, as a result in June 2022 referencing that he had been treated badly since he had gone to his employer to raise concerns about a “string of sexual assaults”.

In the Tribunal’s original judgment from last year, the Employment Judge made clear that someone singing a song in a work environment would not normally amount to harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010. However, in this case, the song was about someone propositioning someone else for sex and that it had been sung in a particular way – with eye contact and gestures towards the Claimant. When that was considered in the context of the other harassment (which the Tribunal had found proven) the song, and what was emphasised in it, took on a very different tone.

It was clear from the Claimant’s evidence that the song being sung to him in the way it was had the effect of violating his dignity and creating a degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for him. The Claimant’s claim for sexual harassment succeeded.

As always, let’s give some thought to what this means for you as an employer:

  1. Where complaints are raised, undertake a reasonable investigation – be even-handed in how you go about that. Don’t just prefer one party to the other. Look to establish all the relevant evidence that you can get your hands on, speaking to all witnesses, not just a select few.
  2. Review and update your Equality and Anti-Harassment and Bullying policies and make sure your staff are fully aware of them and have received training on them so they know what to do (and what not to do!) One of the issues for the Hotel in this case is that they didn’t even try to argue that they had taken reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour from occurring. If they had all the relevant policies and training in place, they may have had a better chance of defending the claim.
  3. Set standards from the top down –in this case, the Tribunal were dealing with senior members of the Hotel’s staff. It was important that they should have been aware of how they should (or shouldn’t act) and that they should have set appropriate standards for more junior staff.

If in doubt, shout up! Precept are here to help on these sort of tricky issues. We can guide you through the investigation process and help you to make the right decisions so that you avoid ending up in this sort of situation yourself!