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Campaign urges government to strengthen workplace sexual harassment law

A new joint campaign urging the UK government to introduce a law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace has been launched by an alliance of unions, women’s rights organisations and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Image credit: ©iStock/olase
The alliance has also launched a petition for the new legislation, which would see employers become legally liable if they fail to protect their staff from sexual misconduct. 
 
The duty on organisations would be supported by a code of practice, including mandatory training for staff and managers, and clear policies. 
 
The alliance, This is Not Working, is backed by 28 organisations, including Amnesty International, Business in the Community, Fawcett Society and Time’s Up UK. 
 
Fawcett’s chief executive Sam Smethers said: “We need to strengthen the law to better protect women from harassment from co-workers, clients or customers and we need a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. They have to take responsibility for their own workplace culture. 
 
“Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect at work. Sexual harassment has no place in any workplace.” 
 
In May, the government said it would launch a consultation on workplace sexual harassment “shortly”. This will consider evidence for introducing a new duty of employers to prevent harassment and extending the protections of the Equality Act to volunteers and interns.
 
Under current law, it is the victim’s responsibility to report sexual harassment at work to their employer after it has happened.
 
The petition says: “Our laws rely on individuals reporting but #ThisIsNotWorking. The onus is on the victim to report – which can be isolating, confusing and potentially traumatic. Four out of five don’t feel able to report sexual harassment to their employer.
 
“It should not be down to the individual to prevent and manage their harassment alone.
 
Research by the TUC found that more than half (52%) of women have experienced sexual harassment at work. However, 79% of these said they did not feel comfortable reporting it to their employer, suggesting that “harassment continues unchecked in workplaces across the UK”, the TUC said. 
 
Its general secretary, Frances O’Grady, 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 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. 
 
“We’re calling on everyone who wants to stop sexual harassment at work to join us and call on minister to take action.” 

 

Keeley Downey was the former assistant editor of IOSH Magazine. Previously she was editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

Comments

  • I totally agree, we must

    Permalink Submitted by John Wood on 28 June 2019 - 05:21 pm

    I totally agree, we must strengthen our laws to protect those being sexuality harassed in the workplace ... but this must be for both male and female workers as many men are getting sexually harassed in the workplace

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  • The laws we have are alr

    Permalink Submitted by Jeremy Rowland on 28 June 2019 - 01:47 pm

    The laws we have are already more than adequate and fit for purpose; this is more unwanted government interference.

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  • This seems sensible at f

    Permalink Submitted by AH on 3 July 2019 - 06:53 am

    This seems sensible at face value - It would be interesting to see the detail of the proposal. What constitutes as sexual harassment and who defines it? Will this be along the lines of the no hugging rule introduced by Netflix? I know a number of happily married couples who met are work following some flirting, will this be banned? It doesn't directly impact me but the workplace could be worse, not better. Will provocation be banned? If so will there be rules on clothing and make up? It's a deeper proposal than meets the eye and is infinately complex.
    Surely individuals do have the responsiblity to step up and speak up for themselves - how many more rights as a scoiety do we want.

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  • I find it astonishing th

    Permalink Submitted by J Lindhardt on 10 July 2019 - 02:36 pm

    I find it astonishing that the male gender is not mentioned at all as being at risk as well as the female. There are plenty of laws already in place and I don't see it as being H&S issue, most companies have policies in place already built upon existing legislation.

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