Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The Women and Equalities Committee call for new laws to protect workers
The Women and Equalities Commission (a parliamentary committee) has produced a report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
Sexual harassment at work is far from a new problem and a BBC survey in November 2017 found that 40% of women and 18% of men had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace, however legal protection is not always available to workers.
The report by the Women and Equalities Commission calls on Government to focus on five priorities:
1. Put sexual harassment at the top of the agenda
Introduce a new duty on employers to prevent harassment, supported by a statutory code of practice outlining the steps employers can take to do this; and ensuring that interns, volunteers and those harassed by third parties have access to the same legal protections and remedies as their workplace colleagues.
2. Require regulators to take a more active role
Set out the actions regulators will take to help tackle the problem, including the enforcement action they will take; and make it clear to those they regulate that sexual harassment is a breach of professional standards and a reportable offence with sanctions.
3. Make enforcement processes work better for employees
Set out in the statutory code of practice what employers should do to tackle sexual harassment, and reduce barriers for taking forward tribunal cases by extending the time limit for submitting a claim, introducing punitive damages for employers and reducing cost risks for employees.
4. Clean up the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
Standard, plain English confidentiality clauses should be used which set out the meaning, limit and effect of the clause, making it an offence to misuse such clauses. Whistleblowing protections should be extended so that disclosures to the police and regulators such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission are protected.
5. Collect robust data
Collect data on the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace and on the number of employment tribunal claims involving complaints of harassment of a sexual nature.
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