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Raising a claim for sexual harassment in an employment tribunal: time limits

If you experience sexual harassment at work, you may want to make a claim in an employment tribunal. To do so, you need to make the claim within three months (minus one day) of the incident. In this blog, we outline the options available if you experience sexual harassment at work, and why we think the three-month time limit should be extended.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of gender-based violence. It is broadly defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, you do not have to put up with it. There are a number of options available to you.

What steps can you take if you have experienced sexual harassment at work?

Usually, the first step in addressing workplace sexual harassment is to raise any concerns with your employer informally. Some options are to:

Many organisations also have formal procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. These policies describe the process and steps you can take.

If you are unable to resolve the issue informally (or it is not safe for you to try), you can make a formal complaint to your employer. If your employer has no procedures to do this, including a grievance procedure, you could use the Acas grievance procedure.

Making a claim in an employment tribunal

If you have been sexually harassed at work, you may be able to make a claim in an employment tribunal (ET) against your employer and/ or the person who harassed you.

The claim must be made to an ET within:

The ET is independent and will assess whether your employer and/ or the person who harassed you acted unlawfully.

Before you submit a claim to an ET, you must contact Acas’ (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) ‘early conciliation’ (EC) service.

EC is a free process where Acas can help you try and resolve the issue. (See information about this service here)

You need to contact Acas within:

EC has the effect of “stopping the clock” on the normal time limit period for making an ET claim. If you cannot reach an agreement with your employer and/ or the person who harassed you during EC, Acas will issue an EC certificate. The clock will restart once the EC certificate is issued.

You will always have at least one month (minus one day) from the date the EC certificate is issued to raise the claim.

You might be able to make a claim even if you miss the 3-month deadline. If you are in this situation, you should seek advice from a solicitor or your trade union representative as soon as possible.

Why the 3-month time limit should be extended

We believe that the current 3-month time limit is wholly insufficient. As we noted in our response to the UK Government Consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind are traumatic experiences. Often, following the incident(s) of sexual harassment, the victim/ survivor’s main focus is on coping with the trauma rather than seeking redress for what has happened to them.

Victims/ survivors of sexual harassment face many barriers to accessing justice, including concerns about job security, fear that reporting may result in victimisation (i.e. being treated badly), and difficulties accessing legal advice. As a result, we believe that six months would be the absolute minimum amount of time necessary, and that a one-year time limit would be more appropriate. This would give survivors more time to process what has happened, get advice, consider their options, and make a claim in an ET (if they wish to do so).

How we can help

If you have experienced harassment at work, our specialist sexual harassment solicitor can provide you with information and advice. You can book a surgery appointment with our sexual harassment solicitor using our new online booking system or call our helpline to request an appointment.

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