The TUC, in conjunction with women’s rights organisations and charities, has launched a campaign calling on the government to outlaw sexual harassment.
The campaign says that the aim of the new law would be to make employers legally responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work.
TUC research has found that more than half (52 per cent) of women – and nearly seven out of ten LGBT people – have experienced sexual harassment at work. It also found that in the vast majority of cases (88 per cent), the perpetrator of the sexual harassment was male, and nearly one in five (17 per cent) women reported that it was their line manager, or someone with direct authority over them.
But under current law there is no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, the onus is on the victim of the sexual harassment to report it to their employer after it has happened.
Four out of five (79 per cent) women who have been sexually harassed at work do not feel able to report it to their employer – meaning harassment continues unchecked in workplaces across the UK.
With the government set to launch a consultation on tackling sexual harassment soon, the TUC alliance – backed by organisations including the Fawcett Society, Action Aid, Amnesty and Time’s Up – has also launched a petition calling on the government to bring in the new law.
The new duty would be supported by a code of practice, explaining exactly what steps bosses would need to take to prevent sexual harassment – such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers, and having clear policies.
This simple step would make a huge difference practically, says the alliance, not least because it would mean that the burden of dealing with sexual harassment would be shifted from individuals to employers. This, in turn, would change workplace cultures and help end the problem once and for all.
Jo Seery, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: "All too often employers assume if there are no reported cases that harassment including sexual harassment is not an issue in the workplace. As the TUC report shows that is most definitely not the case. A mandatory duty on employers to take preventative measures which is properly enforced along with a right to protection from harassment by third parties will go some way to addressing the gap in protection for workers. Employers who are serious about eliminating harassment in the workplace should welcome these proposals and begin negotiating with unions now."
The TUC research can be found on their website.
The petition can be found here.