Unite has joined the TUC and an alliance of other unions, charities and women’s rights groups in a new campaign to end sexual harassment in the workplace.
The launch of the campaign last week (June 26) comes at a time when sexual harassment at work is rife yet there is no legal duty on employers to take action.
Statistics from the TUC show that more than half of women, and 7 in 10 LGBT people, have been sexually harassed at work. But a majority of victims are reticent to report incidents because there is no safe and effective system in place to meaningfully address harassment.
Nearly 80 per cent of women said they did not feel able to report incidents to their bosses, while a quarter of LGBT workers said they kept instances of sexual harassment to themselves because they were afraid of ‘being outed’ at work. A quarter of those surveyed by the TUC felt they would not be taken seriously if they did report sexual harassment, while 15 per cent believed reporting would damage their career prospects.
One anonymous worker told the TUC, “Managers didn’t seem to care. A lot of them laugh it off because they see it as a joke. Within two years, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been harassed.”
The new campaign, #ThisIsNotWorking, has called on the government to take immediate action by introducing a new enforceable mandatory duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment.
This duty would be underpinned by a new EHRC code of practice that would force employers to take reasonable steps to tackle sexual harassment, such as enforcing a zero-tolerance policy and holding mandatory training for all managers and employees. Such training would ensure that all workers understand what constitutes sexual harassment, what their rights are and how they can report sexual harassment.
Each and every workplace should also have a clear reporting system in which reported incidents are promptly and thoroughly investigated. The #ThisIsNotWorking campaign has also called for employers to protect workers from any repercussions if they do report sexual harassment and to respect each worker’s right to organise in the workplace.
The campaign launch comes a week after the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted a new convention that will establish a set of standards aiming to tackle gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace.
The #ThisIsNotWorking alliance has also set up a petition calling on the government to take action – as of writing it has already garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
Commenting on the launch of the #ThisIsNotWorking campaign, TUC 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,” she added. “And it would help end toxic workplace cultures that silence those who’ve been harassed.”
Unite national officer Siobhan Endean agreed.
“It is a disgrace that workers who are victims of sexual harassment – which research shows includes a majority of all women and LGBT workers – must fend for themselves in seeking justice and safety at work after what for many will be a traumatising experience.
“The onus to tackle sexual harassment should fall squarely on the shoulders of employers, who must be held to account through government enforcement. This is the only way that we can change entrenched cultures of sexual harassment that are common in workplaces across the UK.
“We fully support the #ThisIsNotWorking campaign which is lobbying to ensure employers take reasonable steps to protect workers from sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace.”
Help support the campaign by signing the petition here.