Sexual harassment at work happens to 4 in 10 women

The law firm of Slater and Gordon has revealed that not only have many female staff experienced harassment first hand, a further 39% had in fact witnessed fellow staff members being abused.

A staggering 37% of women admitted to being sexually harassed within the last year, with companies choosing to ignore the scale of the problem. 52% of women who were questioned said that their employers did not take any action to stop the harassment, while 56% admitted that the companies they worked for did not have any sexual harassment policies. If the companied di have such policies, they were not aware of them.

Sexual harassment was brought into the forefront after allegation were made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and there was increased awareness of the problem. Despite this, 28% of women claimed that they had within their companies a male staff member who harassed female staff.

While the survey showed that just 32% of women came forward, Slater and Gordon had seen an increase in women who contacted them about this issue. They are now urging the government to make all organisations have a mandatory policy on sexual harassment. They hope that this will start to tackle the problem.

The MeToo movement has greatly helped in bring these issues to light, as well as encouraging women to talk about the situations, although they feel that many women hold back because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

Many companies still turn a blind eye to the severe problems of sexual harassment in the workplace, even though it takes courage to report this behaviour. Women need to be confident that they will be taken seriously and will receive support.

A spokesperson for Slater and Gordon said that by failing to prevent sexual harassment from happening, companies were normalising the behaviour, and while there is currently no legal obligation for them to have anti-harassment policies in place, making the policies mandatory is a necessary step.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful and could be a good reason for a tribunal claim against the employer as well as the person who carries out the harassment. If an employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, they are unlikely to have a good defence.

According to Slater and Gordon the most common form of sexual harassment were suggestive and inappropriate comments made to women with 16% of women saying that they had been the victims of such comments. 11% had been subjected to sexist conduct and 6% had been groped by a colleague.

When queried, women said that the reasons they chose not to come forward with complaints were that either nothing would be done, or that they would harm their career paths, with 1 in 5 women admitting that inappropriate behaviour was ‘the norm’ in their workplace.

The Citizens Advice Bureau urges anyone who is sexually harassed at work to act as quickly as possible, suggesting that they tell the person to stop. If this does not work, they are advised to report the incident to their manager, to put it in writing and to keep a copy. The next step is to talk to the HR department or union.

The CAB advocate that the person who is harassed get advice as soon as possible, keep records of dates, times and places, as well as names of any witnesses. If this does not bring the matter to a conclusion, then they are advised to raise a formal written complaint against their employer.

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