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Sexual harassment at work: still a sad story

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Young women's Trust, survey, sexual harassment at work, #MeToo, fired for reporting, reinstate Section 40, Equality Act 2010, employers' dutiesReinstate Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010.

Two years on from the #MeToo movement, one in four young women say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment at work for fear of losing their job, according to a survey by the charity Young Women’s Trust.

And despite TUC research showing that 63 per cent of young women have been sexually harassed at work, just six per cent of young women who experienced this say they have reported it.

When asked what would put them off reporting a quarter said they feared losing their job, one in five said they feared being given fewer hours at work and one in three said they did not know how to report sexual harassment.

Fears are even higher among young women of colour and young women with a disability or long-term health condition, with 30 and 37 percent respectively saying they would fear losing their job if they reported sexual harassment.

The Young Women’s Trust’s research also showed that these fears were not without foundation.

Sixteen per cent of young women say they “know of cases of sexual harassment at work that have been reported and not dealt with properly”.

Five per cent, or one in 20, young women say they have had to change job due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse.

Eight per cent of young women say they have been treated less well at work because they rejected sexual advances.

And young women were critical of employers’ efforts to tackle sexual harassment.

One in ten said they felt “let down by their employer’s efforts to tackle sexual harassment at work”. One in three said that “there has been talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement started”.

The government recently consulted on possible measures it could take to reduce workplace sexual harassment and make it easier for workers to report issues.

The Young Women’s Trust is calling on the government to:

put a legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces;

reinstate setion 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which made employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party, e.g. clients and customers;

place a legal duty on employers and organisations to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment; and

extend the three-month time limit for employees to bring tribunal cases under the Equality Act to at least six months.

And calling on employers to:

adopt a zero-tolerance policy to sexual harassment and make this clear to all employees;

make complaints policies clear to staff and easy to access, e.g. on the intranet, to make it easier to report incidents;

put in place unbiased complaints processes that do not penalise victims, bringing in external independent help where possible; and

improve workplace cultures by valuing, amplifying and acting on young women’s voices in the organisation.

The Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive, Sophie Walker, said: “We’re marking the #MeToo anniversary with yet another call for action.

“No woman should feel unsafe at work or put up with sexual harassment as something that’s part of the day job – we’ve heard so many testimonies, read so many reports and yet it’s still not mandatory to stop this from happening.

“When will the men who make political decisions, run workplaces and lead businesses decide that respect and equality for women is important?

“We’re calling on the government to make it mandatory for all employers to protect their workers and volunteers from harassment and victimisation,” she continued

“Alongside this, employers should make it easier to report abuse by customers and clients, as well as colleagues, and put in place unbiased reporting processes that do not penalise victims.”

For further information about harassment at work, and how to get help, click here.

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