BriefingBMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7201.3a (Published 07 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:S3a-7201
The word harassment does not appear in antidiscrimination legislation, but it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee by subjecting him or her to a ‘detriment;' harassment is a detriment. (IDS Brief 1999;629: 15-18). Harassment can be racial or on grounds of disability, but the commonest cause still seems to be men imposing unwanted attentions on their female colleagues. The key to the decision is whether the behaviour contains any sort of sexual element that a man would not be vulnerable to; if so, discrimination is proven. The illustrating cases suggest that, though harassment can be merely verbal, most cases that make it to a tribunal involve some sorry groping.
Another review focuses on the law of holidays (IDS Brief 1999;638:15-19) with a view to the millenium. There is no automatic right to leave on any holiday: it all depends on one's contract. Taking holiday when permission has been refused, or overstaying leave, is likely to constitute fair grounds for dismissal. Absences for mild illness may arouse “a degree of suspicion,” but the report advises investigation and insistence on production of a ‘sick note' rather than hasty dismissal. As these should, in most instances, be self-certificated illnesses, managers will do well to consider the carrot, as well as the stick.
The Health and Safety Executive is conducting a consultation on stress in the workplace, recognising the lack of agreement on some basic concepts. Some say it is a society wide problem to be tackled through government action; others argue it is an individual response to modern life. If you'd like to comment, the consultation is available at www.open.gov.uk/hse/condocs/ and closes on 30 July.