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Employers should prevent sexual harassment

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TUC alliance, campaign, petition, government, make employers responsible, sexual harassment at work, #ThisIsNotWorking“It’s shocking that in 2019 so many people experience sexual harassment and assault while at work.”

The TUC, women’s rights organisations and charities have launched a joint campaign calling on the government to introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work.

TUC research found that more than half (52 per cent) of women and nearly seven out of ten LGBT people have experienced sexual harassment at work.

And four out of five (79 per cent) women who have been sexually harassed at work did not feel able to report it to their employer – meaning that harassment continues unchecked in workplaces throughout the UK.

But under current law there is no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, the onus is on the victim of the sexual harassment to report it to their employer after it has happened.

Up until 2013 an employer could be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent third-party harassment at work where they were aware of it having occurred on at least two occasions. But this provision, known as Section 40, was repealed by the Conservative LibDem coalition government in 2013.

With the current government set to launch its consultation on tackling sexual harassment ‘soon’, the TUC alliance, which includes the Fawcett Society, Young Women’s Trust, Imkaan, Pregnant Then Screwed, Rights of Women and Time’s Up, wants to see the law changed so that employers have a legal duty to take preventative measures to ensure their workplaces are harassment-free.

The new duty would be supported by a code of practice explaining exactly what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment – such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers, and having clear policies.

This simple step would make a huge difference in practice, says the alliance. It would mean that the burden of dealing with sexual harassment would be shifted from individuals to employers.

This would change workplace cultures and help end the problem once and for all.

The TUC’s 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. And it would help end toxic workplace cultures that silence those who’ve been harassed.

“We’re calling on everyone who want to stop sexual harassment at work to join us and call on ministers to take action.”

The organisations in the alliance at the launch were Accord, Action Aid, Amnesty international UK, BDA, Business in the Community, Equality Trust, Equity, Fawcett Society, GMB, Imkaan, LGBT History Month, Musicians’ Union, NASUWT, NEU, Not the Job, Pregnant Then Screwed, Rights of Women, RMT, Schools OUT UK, Stonewall, Time’s Up UK, TUC, UCU, UK Black Pride, UNISON, Usdaw, and the Young Women’s Trust.

Other organisations have been invited and the TUC expects the alliance to grow.

And the rest of us can help the campaign by signing and sharing this petition.

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