Information to subcontractors about harassment, sexual harassment and offensive discrimination

The information below is aimed at subcontractors to the Swedish Research Council and is based on the Swedish Research Council’s “Policy and guidelines for managing harassment, sexual harassment and offensive discrimination”, dated 02 September 2019. The background to this is that Swedish employers are obliged to comply with Swedish discrimination legislation (Diskrimineringslag (2008:567)).

About harassment and offensive discrimination

The Swedish Research Council does not tolerate any type of harassment, sexual harassment, offensive discrimination or reprisal occurring in the workplace or in contexts when people work on behalf of the Swedish Research Council. These behaviours are unacceptable and may constitute a serious threat to employees’ health, job satisfaction and opportunities to develop at work.

It is the person who feels they are harassed who determines what is unwelcome.
The person doing the harassing must also be aware that the behaviour is offensive, and it is therefore important that the person who feels harassed makes this clear.


Harassment is defined in Swedish discrimination legislation (Diskrimineringslag (2008:567)) as behaviour that offends against somebody’s dignity and that is connected to one of the grounds for discrimination, namely gender, cross-gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other faith, functional disability, sexual orientation, or age.

Examples of harassment may be derogatory jokes, generalisations or unwelcome comments about persons based on one of the seven grounds for discrimination. Making persons invisible, ignored or treated in a derogatory manner, based on one of the seven grounds for discrimination. Unwelcome gestures or epithets based on one of the seven grounds for discrimination.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is defined by discrimination legislation (Chapter 1, Section 4, Diskrimineringslag (2008:567)) as “conduct of a sexual nature that offends against a person’s dignity”. “Conduct” means practically all forms of behaviour: physical, verbal and non-verbal.Sometimes it is, however, apparent that the person doing the harassing should have understood that they are guilty of an unwanted behaviour and then no clarification is necessary for the behaviour to be assessed as being sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment may be unwelcome sexual allusions, looks, gestures or forms of address. Unwelcome sexual comments about appearance, dress or private life. Groping or other unwelcome conscious touch of a sexual character. Possession or spreading of images, films or texts with content that may be perceived as sexually offensive or disturbing.

Offensive discrimination

The Swedish Work Environment Authority defines offensive discrimination in its regulations on offensive discrimination in working life (AFS 2015:4) as “actions aimed at one or several employees in an offensive way and that may lead to ill health or to these persons being excluded from the workplace community”.

Examples of offensive discrimination may be excluding or ignoring, for example not greeting or speaking/listening to a person. Withholding work-related information. Sabotaging work or making it more difficult to carry out. Excessive control of the work carried out.

Procedure for persons subjected

If you feel you have been subjected to offensive discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment, you should do the following:

  • React. If the behaviour is not clearly offensive, then the person who is being offensive needs to be made aware that the behaviour is unsuitable and is perceived as offensive. If possible – tell them straight.
  • Note it down. It is important to note down what happened, date, time and whether there are any witnesses who can confirm your story if the unwanted behaviour does not stop.
  • Ask for help. If you are not comfortable telling the person who is being offensive, if you are not listened to when you tell them, or feel that someone else is being offended at work, then you should report this to your contact at the Swedish Research Council or to Lucas Pettersson, head at the Department of Research Funding.
  • You can also contact your trade union representative or The Swedish Research Council’s safety ombudsman for support. Tell them what you are feeling or what you are reacting to that may be unacceptable and offensive behaviour. You can do this either orally and/or in writing. Remember that you or – if it is another subcontractor that is being subjected – they do not want names included, then the behaviour cannot form the basis for disciplinary measures. On the other hand, the Swedish Research Council can undertake general preventive measures.

If you see anyone else subjected

It is important to care and to be brave enough to take action if you feel that anyone else is being subjected to offensive behaviour. You should react if you notice that a person subjected does not have the strength themselves to deal with what has happened:

  • React. Tell off the person who is being offensive. Be a good example by not staying silent when someone is being subjected to offensive behaviour. Make what is happening visible.
  • Talk to the person being subjected to offensive behaviour. Encourage the person to speak to a relevant person to get help.
  • Talk to your contact person or Lucas Pettersson, head at the Department of Research Funding. If the person subjected to offensive behaviour does not want to take the matter further, then you can make it into your own experience: “this is what I see/feel”.



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