How “purpose or reasonable effect” can affect workplace harassment cases

20th July 2023
Greasley-Adams v Royal Mail Group Limited

Harassment in the workplace has come under a spotlight in the last few years; from what we have seen, employers have also put their policies and practices under the spotlight to ensure they are doing all they can to eliminate it. However, given that harassment is based on personal perception, sadly it is not something that can be totally eradicated.

Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is defined as follows:

A harasses B if A engages in unwanted conduct which had the purposes or reasonable effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

The recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Greasley-Adams v Royal Mail Group Limited highlighted a key component to the test to determine if harassment has taken place, being whether the harassment has the “purpose or reasonable effect” of causing the hurt etc – which is the “perception”.

Mr Greasley-Adams had complaints brought against him by two colleagues, which were investigated.   During the investigation process, Mr Greasley-Adams was provided with statements his colleagues had made against him.  On becoming aware of what his colleagues had said against him, as a result of being provided with the investigation documentation, Mr Greasley-Adams brought a subsequent complaint for harassment against those colleagues.

The Tribunal found that the unwanted conduct complained of did not have the effect for it to amount to harassment. The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the Tribunal’s decision on the basis that if Mr Greasley-Adams had at the time no awareness off the conduct then he could have no perception of it. The EAT stated that if there is no awareness, there can be no perception.

Whether the acts an individual becomes aware of amount to harassment will depend on the facts of the case. In this instance, it was found that it was reasonable to expect that things would emerge which he may not like during the investigation and therefore could not have reasonable violated his dignity. This decision was fact-sensitive and therefore, it should be kept in mind that it is not to say that any revelations that appear during an investigation or via other means can never constitute harassment. It will depend on the perception and reasonableness of the effect the alleged conduct had.

Need to know more?

For more information on these changes or assistance with updating your policies or contracts, you can contact our Employment Client Services team here, or by calling the team 0344 2640102.

Restrictive covenants in employment contracts – what the government is proposing

employees are departing who may have had access to trade secrets, strategic plans, financial plans and customer or client confidential information.

July 2023 Learn more
Is a hug harassment in the workplace?

Following the news that employees at fashion house Ted Baker have launched a petition over ‘forced hugging’, DAS Law’s Lucy Kenyon looks at what is acceptable in the workplace, and what could be considered harassment.

January 2019 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2024
Employment disputes How Maternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Leave regulations are changing this year

In this Bitesized Edition, we look at the new Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations, set to come into force on 6 April 2024.

February 2024
Employment disputes 9 things employers need to know about apprenticeships

With National Apprenticeship Week here, we explain what employers need to consider regarding apprenticeship schemes and their legal obligations.

February 2024
Employment disputes How flexible working regulations are changing this year

Amendments to the current flexible working legislation will come into force this year. Any flexible working applications made on or after 6 April 2024 must be dealt with in accordance with the regulations.

January 2024
Employment disputes Holiday Pay Guidance from the Government – The Bitesized Edition

The Government has issued guidance on calculating holiday pay to simplify holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers.

January 2024
General advice , Employment disputes Be on your best behaviour at your work Christmas party

Charlotte Ellis. Legal Adviser at DAS Law, looks at the rules surrounding the office Christmas party.

December 2023
Employment disputes Don’t get a red card while watching the World Cup at work

If you are planning on watching World Cup matches at work there are a number of important things to consider.

August 2023
Employment disputes How employers can prevent harassment or bullying in the workplace

Employers can be liable for employees who have subjected other employees to harassment in the workplace if they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

July 2023
Employment disputes How “purpose or reasonable effect” can affect workplace harassment cases

Harassment in the workplace has come under a spotlight in the last few years and employers have put their policies and practices under the spotlight to ensure they are doing all they can to eliminate it.

July 2023
Employment disputes Restrictive covenants in employment contracts – what the government is proposing

employees are departing who may have had access to trade secrets, strategic plans, financial plans and customer or client confidential information.

July 2023
Employment disputes The Sunset Clause Removal: retaining and discarding EU Law – The Bitesized Edition

Following Brexit, in September 2022 the government introduced a bill creating powers to revoke, amend, replace, restate or assimilate approximately 2,400 pieces of EU Law.

June 2023
Employment disputes The Carer’s Leave Bill – The Bitesized Edition

This bill introduces the right for employees to take up to one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care.

April 2023
Employment disputes Neonatal Care Leave & Pay – The Bitesized Edition

In 2022 the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill was backed by the Government, and on 24 March 2023 the Bill passed second reading at the House of Lords.

April 2023