Employers must take more responsibility for sexual harassment
Rachel Muller-Heyndyk, June 27, 2019
A campaign is calling for a new law to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment at work
Unions, women’s rights organisations and charities have launched a joint campaign calling on the government to introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work.
'This Is Not Working' has been launched after research from the TUC found that more than half (52%) of women have experienced sexual harassment at work. Four out of five (79%) women who have been sexually harassed in the workplace do not feel able to report it to their employer.
Under current law there is no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their premises. Instead the onus is on the victim to report it to their employer after it has happened.
With the government set to launch its consultation on tackling sexual harassment soon the TUC alliance – backed by organisations including The Fawcett Society, Action Aid, Amnesty International and Time’s Up – is calling for the law to be changed so that employers have a legal duty to take preventative measures.
The new duty would be supported by a code of practice outlining what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment, such as mandatory training for staff and managers and having clear policies, the alliance said.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “It’s shocking that in 2019 so many people experience sexual harassment and assault while at work. The government must strengthen the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers.
“This would shift the burden of tackling sexual harassment away from individuals. And it would help end toxic workplace cultures that silence those who’ve been harassed," she added. "We’re calling on everyone who wants to stop sexual harassment at work to join us and call on ministers to take action.”
Bex Bailey, media manager at Young Women's Trust, added that progress on tackling sexual harassment at work has been too slow.
“We have heard a huge number of testimonies from women in all sectors but we are still waiting for action to end sexual harassment. No woman should feel unsafe at work or unable to say something if she is sexually harassed. Yet huge numbers tell us they are still scared of reporting harassment for fear of losing their job, with many not even knowing how to report it," she said.
“We’re calling on the government to make it mandatory for all employers to protect their workers from harassment and victimisation. Alongside this employers should make it easier to report abuse by customers and clients, as well as colleagues, and put in place unbiased reporting processes that do not penalise victims.
“Making workplaces safe for women is not just the right thing to do, it will also benefit businesses and the economy. We cannot delay this any longer.”