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Our Campaign To Stamp Out Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

 

I recently wrote an article about the link between sexual harassment and who has the power in the workplace. Since then, we have been inundated with cases from employers and employees, including women alleging sexual harassment or assault, companies dealing with these allegations and directors defending attempts to dismiss them as they argued they had been unfairly accused.

There is not doubt that the #MeToo campaign has been important in encouraging women to speak out.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently conducted and published the results of their online survey on sexual harassment made up of 750 responses.

3/4 of the 750 had experienced sexual harassment at work and the majority of these were women. 3/4 of the perpetrators were colleagues/directors of the company, with the remainder being customers or clients. The remaining 1/4 had witnessed harassment or had supported others.

In around half of the cases where individuals had reported the incident, the employers took no action and a 1/4 of those surveyed who had been sexually harassed hadn’t reported their experience.

Consequently, the EHRC have made a number of recommendations for employers which include:

  • Publishing their organisation’s sexual harassment policy and taking steps to implement and evaluate this on their website
  • Ensuring that their organisation’s sexual harassment policy explicitly addresses their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 in respect of workers supplied to them by third parties
  • Ensuring their sexual harassment policy is shared with organisations supplying staff and services and that these workers are aware of their organisation’s policy and how to report instances of sexual harassment
  • Ensuring all current and potential employees are aware of their organisation’s commitment to preventing sexual harassment at work
  • Raising awareness of the steps their organisation is taking to ensure their workplace is free from sexual harassment and how everyone – whether directly employed, an agency worker, or even an interviewee – know they should report any incidents that do occur.

Other recommendations for the Government were:

  • To develop an online tool to make it easier to report sexual harassment
  • To restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality clauses which prevent employees speaking out about sexual harassment
  • Make discussion of harassment more open to encourage reporting of incidents.

As part of our commitment to eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace, we will be running our ‘Stamping out Sexual Harassment’ campaign throughout June. We will be offering free advice lines to both employers and employees on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. We are also running two seminars for HR specialists and business owners on May 24 2018 on ‘How to Avoid and Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.’

Finally, we are recruiting two interns from the University of Sussex to carry out further research into sexual harassment in the workplace. This will concentrate on women in professional services such as law, accountancy and finance. We aim to publish the results by the end of the year.

It is not surprising that with the rise in pregnancy and maternity discrimination, which has doubled in the last ten years, we are finding that sexual harassment is a continuing problem in the workplace.

Presenteeism and long working hours are increasing while women are being pushed out of the workplace due to family commitments. This can only lead to a negative culture where women are undermined and disrespected.

There is no doubt that sexual harassment in the workplace remains a problem where there is a power imbalance – and this has to change.

If you require advice about ensuring equality in your workplace, or your right to take action against sexual harassment, please contact our specialist Employment Law team today on 01273 609911, or at info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

About the author

Fiona Martin

fiona-martin

I lead the employment teams in our solicitors’ offices in Brighton, Eastbourne, Shoreham, Gatwick & Crawley and Croydon. As founding Director, I am also responsible for the firm’s marketing. I provide expert opinion for the press, disseminate employment law round-ups through my employment law blog and campaign on important issues such as maternity and disability discrimination. I train employers and HR professionals to be best practice managers and I am also a CEDR accredited mediator.

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