Sexual Harassment

In November 2023 IPEM signed the NHS Sexual safety in healthcare organisational charter which commits us to taking a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviours within the workplace.  The charter is aimed at staff working in healthcare and IPEM has incorporated the core principles and actions of the charter in a new sexual harassment  policy for its staff to help achieve this.

In order to extend the reach to volunteers and members and confirm our commitment we also:

  • Updated our Volunteer policy to state our zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment
  • Included sexual harassment as a gross misconduct in our new Volunteer disciplinary procedure
  • Updated the members' Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct
  • Provide information on sexual harassment and where to access support for members that have been affected in their workplace (see below).

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or the effect of:

  • violating the person’s dignity, or
  • creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, offensive environment for that person.

Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity or that of the harasser. Sexual harassment does not have to be targeted at one individual and a single one-off event can amount to sexual harassment. A person can be affected even if conduct is not targeted at them, for example if they are forced to witness something.

What is unwanted conduct?

Unwanted conduct covers a wide range of unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which can be broadly placed in these three categories:

  • Physical (such as unwanted touching, patting, hugging as well as more extreme criminal offences like sexual violence, rape)
  • Verbal (such as banter, mimicry, sexual comments, stories, jokes, sharing sexually explicit messages/images, coercion, gaslighting)
  • Non verbal (such as displays of sexually explicit imagery, posts on social media, sexually suggestive gestures or facial expressions, whistling)

The effect of such behaviour and whether it is unwanted should be considered from the point of view of the person who feels harassed. Sexual harassment can occur even if the effect was not intended.


Where to get help if you have been affected:

  1. Check if your Trust is a signatory of the NHS charter
  2. If you have experienced sexual harassment read the ACAS guidelines on what to do.  This includes recording what has happened and steps to take to make a complaint.
  3. If you are a member of a Trade Union reach out to their support team
  4. Women who've experienced sexual harassment at work can get free legal advice from:
    Rights of Women – England and Wales
    Scottish Women's Rights Centre
  5. Sexual harassment can be traumatising and affect you deeply. If you're struggling to cope and need someone to talk to, you can contact:
    LGBT Foundation
  6. If you have experienced a sexual assault or rape there is information and help on the NHS website

Witnessing Sexual harassment

ACAS also has some information on what to do if you have witnessed sexual harassment. If we want to achieve a work environment where sexual harassment - or harassment of any kind - is unacceptable it is important to not be a bystander.  Please consider speaking out or stepping in when it is safe to do so. If you could not do so at the time reach out to the victim afterwards and offer support.