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End sexual harassment at work


HeartUnions 2020, campaign, end sexual harassment at work, petition, change law, “The government must stop dragging its feet and change the law.”

Seven in 10 (68 per cent) people think the #MeToo movement has allowed people to be more open about sexual harassment, according to a new TUC poll published recently.

This number is highest amongst women (72 per cent) and young people (78 per cent).

But the TUC says that despite higher levels of awareness, cases of sexual harassment remain alarmingly high.

The union federation is now – again – calling on the government to make it a legal duty for employers to actively prevent sexual harassment at work.

This call came as the TUC’s annual HeartUnions week celebrating the work of unions kicked off. The theme this year is ‘ending sexual harassment at work’.

Previous TUC research found that more than half (52 per cent) of women – and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of young women aged 18-24 years old – have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Almost half a million young women in the UK joined the workforce in the last year, and there are now nearly 1.7 young women in work.

The TUC says the law on sexual harassment must be changed urgently to stop any more people being harassed.

Currently there is no legal requirement for employers to prevent sexual harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, it is up to the victim to report it after it has happened.

The TUC wants the law changed so employers have a legal duty to make sure that their workplaces are harassment-free – by taking simple preventative steps, like carrying out mandatory training for all staff and managers, and having clear policies.

This would shift the burden of dealing with sexual harassment from individuals to employers. And would change workplace cultures and stop the problem once and for all.

The government was due to publish its response to its consultation on changing the law on sexual harassment last month, but it has now been delayed.

This week during HeartUnions, workers are stepping up and taking action – where employers and the government have failed to – working with union reps to lead on preventative action in their workplaces.

And a TUC alliance – backed by more than 30 organisations including the Fawcett Society, Imkaan, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Musicians’ Union, the End Violence Against Women coalition and Time’s Up UK – has launched a petition calling on the government to change the law. It can be found here.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The #MeToo movement has helped people speak more openly about sexual harassment. That’s a good a thing.

“But talking about the problem isn’t going to fix it. The government must stop dragging its feet and change the law.

“Employers, not victims, should be responsible for tackling harassment at work.

“We’re calling on everyone who wants to stop sexual harassment to join us this HeartUnions week, and demand ministers take action now.”

What to do if you have been sexually harassed at work:

You are protected from sexual harassment in the workplace by the Equality Act 2010.

It does not matter how long you have worked for your employer or whether you are a permanent employee, an apprentice or trainee, on a fixed-term contract or supplied by an agency, you are still protected by this legislation.

Click here for the TUC’s ‘Know Your Rights’ guidance, which describes the offence, its impact and the rights you have to fight back if it happens.

Who to speak to for support if you have been sexually harassed or experienced sexual violence:

National Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 9999

Women’s Aid: 08457 023 047

Latin American Women’s Rights Service  020 7336 0888

The TUC is also gathering signatures for a petition calling on the government to bring in a new law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace before it happens. To add your name, click here.

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