A large majority of women have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace, according to a survey of 6,000 working people.
In addition, more than a third say it has affected their careers, according to the recent 2022 Gender Equality in the Workplace report by Randstad.
The research revealed that harassment was most likely in the construction and tech industries, with almost half (45 per cent) of women in construction and 42 per cent in tech saying that sexual harassment had either a lot or some impact on their career.
The findings also showed 72 per cent of women had either encountered or witnessed inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues at work, and that two-thirds had experienced gender discrimination in some form.
The study also found that women working in education and facilities management were the least likely to say that sexual harassment affected their careers (29 and 26 per cent respectively).
Amanda Hyam, a Senior Associate Solicitor with Mander Hadley, who specialises in employment law, said: “Employers need to demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. In most cases employers will be legally responsible for harassment suffered by their staff during the course of employment.”
Such measures might include:
Starting at the top: Senior managers should ensure a zero-tolerance approach to harassment. Make it clear to everyone, no matter their status, that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
Communication and training: Identify potential trigger points like high-stress environments, late nights and long hours and consider what extra measures could be put in place to reduce the risk of harassment.
Support for reporting: Ensure there is an appropriate and confidential way for those with concerns to come forward. Support should be built into any safe reporting system.
Implement anti-harassment policies: Clearly define the meaning of sexual harassment as part of the anti-harassment policy and make sure all employees sign up to it. Update regularly and make sure all policies are consistent in having zero tolerance of sexual harassment.
Amanda added: “Although the report focuses on the harassment of women, it is also important to note that sexual harassment can happen to men and people of any gender identity or sexual orientation. It can be carried out by anyone of the same sex, or a different sex.
“What some people might consider as a joke or workplace ‘banter’ is still sexual harassment if it is unwanted, offensive or violates someone’s dignity.”
For help and support with all employment law matters, including putting in place protocols to deal with and avoid sexual harassment allegations, please get in touch with us.
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