Q&A As a volunteer, what can I do about sexual harassment in the workplace?

Q:      I started volunteering for a large national charity when I retired. I love what I do, and it has become a major part of my life. However, one of the employed members of the team has made several sexual advances towards me, constantly makes sexually orientated comments to me and has even suggested he knows where I live, which I see as a veiled threat to pay me an unwanted visit. I have tried several times to speak to his line manager but was brushed off with such as: “Oh, he doesn’t mean anything by it, he is only playing with you.”

Last time I tried to speak to the manager he suggested I should volunteer somewhere else if I was unhappy. This has infuriated me and I don’t think they should get away with this behaviour. As a volunteer, is there anything I can do about this man and his manager who ignores what is going on?

A:       Unfortunately, whilst employees have contracts of employment that usually include grievance and disciplinary procedures, together with the right to take their employer to a tribunal, volunteers do not generally benefit from the same legal status and protection. However, whilst volunteers are not covered by employment protection they are, as members of the public, protected by legislation relating to health and safety, data protection and harassment.

In your case, it would appear that you are being harassed by this employee, and under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, anyone found guilty of harassment can face a fine and even imprisonment, as well as a civil action by the victim they have harassed. There have also been cases where the court has held employers responsible (*). You could point this out to the relevant parties. If the harassment still continues, you can either seek advice from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) or make an appointment to see a solicitor.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194 

James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.