Watchdog warns of “truly shocking” sexual harassment at work
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for a change in the law to protect victims of sexual harassment.
In a new report, the equality watchdog said it has discovered some “truly shocking” examples of harassment in the workplace and called on the Government to introduce legislation to stop employers using non-disclosure agreements to sweep sexual harassment “under the carpet”.
Instead, the commission says such agreements should only ever be used at a victim’s request.
In a new report, the watchdog also warns “corrosive working practices” have silenced many victims and “normalised” sexual harassment.
The report also calls on the Government to introduce a mandatory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
It also calls on ministers to collect data from across England, Scotland and Wales every three years to determine the extent of sexual harassment at work.
And the report also recommends the government amend the limitation period for harassment claims in an employment tribunal to six months from the latest date of harassment.
The watchdog has also recommended the British government reinstate section 40 of the 2010 Equality Act and amend it to remove the requirement for employers to know that an employee has been subjected to two or more instances of harassment before they become liable.
“We set out to discover how sexual harassment at work is dealt with by employers and how it is experienced by individuals. What we found was truly shocking,” said commission chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath.
Employees’ mental and physical health
“There is a lack of consistent, effective action being taken by employers, and people’s careers and mental and physical health have been damaged as a result,’ she added.
“Corrosive cultures have silenced individuals and sexual harassment has been normalised.
“We underestimate extent and we are complacent as to impact. We need urgent action to turn the tables in British workplaces; shifting from the current culture of people risking their jobs and health in order to report harassment, to placing the onus on employers to prevent and resolve it. That’s what our recommendations set out to do.
“It cannot be right that millions of people go to work fearing what might have happened by the time they come home. Employers need to stand up and take responsibility for eliminating sexual harassment from every British workplace,’ added the chief executive.
The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady said the commission’s report echoed their own research.
“We found that more than half of women had experienced sexual harassment at work, but only one in five reported it. The impact of sexual harassment can be devastating and long-lasting,” said Ms O’Grady.
“Employers and government must take the practical steps set out by both the EHRC and the TUC to stamp out sexual harassment.”
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