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Work environment

What is sexual harassment?

The Discrimination Act Chapter 1, Section 5 states that sexual harassment is "Conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and violates someone’s dignity."

Sexual harassment may include a wide range of actions, for example ridiculing or degrading comments based on gender or sexual orientation, touching or other unwelcome physical approaches.

If you are the subject of any kind of sexual harassment, or if you see a colleague being exposed to sexual harassment, it is important to act immediately.

Step by step – if it happens to you

  1. Protest. Even when it is obvious that the act is sexual harassment, it is important to say clearly that you perceive the act as sexual harassment and that it is not ok.
  2. Tell your boss. When meeting your boss about such a subject it is always possible to contact your union representative and ask them to accompany you. If it is your boss or equivalent who is harassing you, or if the employer does not act to stop the harassment, you should report this to your local union association.
  3. Document. Save emails or equivalent if the harassment is in writing. Record what has happened and when, and save emails between you and your employer so that it is possible to show what action the employer has taken.
  4. Do not wait too long. The more time that has passed, the harder it will be to investigate and take action.

More information

Read more about sexual harassment on the Discrimination Ombudsman website (in Swedish)

The employer is obliged to investigate and take action against harassment and sexual harassment.

The employer must:

  1. Investigate
  2. Take reasonable steps
  3. Follow up

The employer has full employer responsibility during the investigation both for the person who is subjected to harassment and for the employee accused of sexual harassment. Support and assistance efforts may be made available through the occupational health services.
Discrimination Act Chapter 2, Section 3.


Ban on reprisals

Employers and representatives of the employer, that is managers, are prohibited from exposing an employee to reprisals as a consequence of having:

  • Reported or notified that the employer has acted in breach of the Discrimination Act.
  • Participated in an investigation according to the Discrimination Act.
  • Rejected or endured the employer’s sexual harassment.

The ban on reprisals is a ban on the employer punishing the employee (or others) who have claimed sexual harassment or stated that the employer has not investigated sexual harassment.
Discrimination Act Chapter 2, Section 1

According to the Discrimination Act, work on active, preventive measures against sexual harassment under the law must be carried out in cooperation with employees – usually the unions that are represented in the workplace.

This implies that the employer has an obligation to cooperate in the development of guidelines and practices regarding sexual harassment, and also to cooperate in the follow-up and evaluation of these guidelines and practices.

Proactive working environment activities form the basis of a work environment free of harassment and different types of discrimination. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the employer, in the context of its systematic work environment activities, also deals with these issues.

At the workplace, the local Saco-S organization deals specifically with workplace issues, primarily through local health and safety representatives. One of their most important tasks is to ensure that the employer fulfils its obligations.


As a member

As a member of SULF, you receive individual support from the local elected representatives at your workplace. For example, your local union representatives support you in your contacts with your employer. You get help with coming to an agreement with the employer about the measures that are appropriate and your local union reps can negotiate for you if such a situation occurs.

Contact data for local Saco-s associations

It is also possible to ring the membership helpline at 08-505 836 00 which is open on business days 9.00-11.30 or email. Contact with union reps are only available to SULF members so please be prepared to give your personal registration number or your membership number.


For union representatives

As union representatives, we often meet members who have been victims of, or experienced, sexual harassment in different ways. In order to respond and act as effectively as possible, it is important that our elected representatives are well-trained in the Discrimination Act, the Work Environment Act and basic labour law. SULF trains its union representatives on a continuous basis via a wide range of courses and newsletters where information is provided about, for example, new legislation and regulations in the field.

Union courses for SULF representatives (in Swedish)

Union courses for Saco-S representatives (in Swedish)

The generally insecure employment conditions and fixed-term employment contracts that dominate the university world make it particularly difficult for the individual to protest against harassment and different forms of discrimination. Being considered as difficult or uncomfortable may mean that your contract is not extended or you are not included in the next research project. Insecure employment therefore creates an environment in which individuals do not always dare to speak up or make demands on their employer for fear of being perceived as difficult.

SULF works on a continuous basis to achieve more secure employment forms and fewer fixed-term contracts with insecure conditions within the university world through advocacy towards government, authorities, research funding bodies and employers.

Read response to proposed bill entitled Trygghet och attraktivitet – en forskarkarriär för framtiden (SOU 2016:29). (in Swedish)

Hidden gender discrimination is difficult to identify and even more difficult to manage on an individual level. In the SULF publication entitled Kokbok för jämställd akademi (Cookbook for Gender Equal Academic Opportunities) read about what you can do practically when you or a colleague are subjected to divide and rule techniques or sexual harassment. In order to change a negative and oppressive culture in the workplace, it is important to work proactively to create an environment where everyone is respected and allowed to speak. One concrete method is to use the Promoter or Confirmation techniques.

Download Kokbok för jämställd akademi (in Swedish)

or order the publication Kokbok för jämställd akademi (scroll down the page) (in Swedish)


More information

For the individual who is experiencing sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination, SULF can offer support and assistance through its local elected representatives and central officials. But we need to do even more to change discriminatory cultures that exist within the academic world. Contact us if you want to know more or if you would like to become involved in union work and help us make the university a workplace free from sexual harassment and discrimination.