A survey of 1,500 women conducted by the TUC has revealed that
half of women say that they have been sexually harassed at work.
The problem is even worse for younger women with almost two thirds
of those aged between 18 and 24 reporting that they have suffered
sexual harassment in the workplace.
The report indicates that a third of women have been subjected
to unwelcome jokes, more than one in four have been subjected to
comments of a sexual nature, and one in eight said they had
experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them.
The report also indicates that the vast majority of women (79
per cent) who said they were a victim did not report it to their
employer. The reasons given for not reporting include: (i) a fear
that submitting a report would affect their relationships at work;
(ii) a fear that making a report would impact on their career
prospects; and (iii) an assumption that the matter would not be
Sexual harassment at work is a form of discrimination and
employees who are subjected to it could bring claims in an
Employment Tribunal. However, the first time that an employer may
become aware of any harassment could be when an employee raises a
grievance and it may already be too late to avoid potential
liability. Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can also
have a devastating impact on employee morale, which is not limited
to the victim.
Employers should cultivate a culture where discrimination of any
kind (including harassment) is not welcome and will not be
tolerated. To help achieve this, they should:
implement policies detailing their
approach to harassment and equal opportunities and the actions that
will be taken if these policies are breached;
conduct regular training with staff
on all types of discrimination and what to do if it occurs.
Providing bespoke training for managers and supervisors will also
help to identify potential harassment at an early stage and ensure
that it is dealt with efficiently and appropriately;
ensure that employees fully
understand their options for raising concerns and provide comfort
that, if they raise a concern, it will be dealt with sensitively
and confidentially; and
define clear consequences for any
staff found to have committed an act of discrimination and ensure
that these policies are consistently applied.
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