Harassed workers 'systematically failed'

Third party harassment must be stamped out, says Unite

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Unite has called for concrete legislation to tackle third party harassment at work by ensuring employers take a zero-tolerance approach to incidents and produce policies that truly protect workers.

Third parties are those not directly involved in an organisation, such as customers in the hospitality and retail industries, or patients in the health sector.

Half of women aged 18-34 have experienced harassment from a third party at work, including verbal abuse, intimidation, or physical violence. NHS figures released today (March 7) show that almost 700,000 NHS workers suffered sexual harassment from patients, or other members of the public, last year.

This epidemic of harassment has been exacerbated by the removal of protections from the 2010 Equalities Act, while a watered-down Workers Protection Bill has done nothing to safeguard workers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Staff safety should be one the highest of priorities for all employers and Unite is totally committed to tackling harassment in the workplace.

“But harassed workers are being systematically failed, not only by bad bosses who don’t care but also by a government that deliberately lets employers ignore such forms of harassment with impunity.

Speaking today (March 7) at the TUC women’s conference in London – in which Unite tabled a motion calling for legislation to be implemented – Unite national officer for women Alison Spencer-Scragg expressed frustration at the lack of action from the government and employers.

Moving the motion, Spencer-Scragg said, “The removal of the need for employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment puts the most vulnerable of workers at risk, particularly frontline professionals, retail staff or hospitality workers who suffer regular abuse from service users or customers.”

Spencer-Scragg reiterated Unite’s continued support for legislative measures and urged the government to show leadership to wipe out unacceptable and harmful behaviour.

She concluded, “Workspaces must be free of any kind of harassment and abuse. Our members demand better, and we are working to ensure their workplaces implement robust, preventative policies before incidents occur.”

By Hannah Thornley