TUC: Government must change the law to stop sexual harassment at work
4 Jul 2019 01:23 PM
The TUC is calling on the government to introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work, as its annual LGBT+ conference begins in London today (Thursday).
TUC analysis published in May found that nearly 7 in 10 (68%) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people reported being sexually harassed at work.
Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of those who experienced sexual harassment said it had a negative impact on their working life:
- Around 1 in 6 (16%) said they left their job as a result of the sexual harassment
- A fifth (20%) said it made them feel less confident at work
- Around 1 in 7 (14%) said it caused them to avoid certain work situations – like meetings, courses, locations and particular shifts – in order to avoid the person who was harassing them
- Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the harassment made them feel embarrassed at work.
The current law
Under current law there is no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, the onus is on the victim of the sexual harassment to report it to their employer after it has happened. However, two thirds of LGBT people who’ve been sexually harassed don’t report it to their employer. One in four of those who didn’t report were silenced by their fear of being ‘outed’ at work.
What needs to change
With the government set to launch its consultation on tackling sexual harassment soon, the TUC – and an alliance of organisations including the Stonewall, UK Black Pride, the Fawcett Society, Amnesty International UK, and Time’s Up UK – wants to see the law changed so employers have a legal duty to take preventative measures to ensure their workplaces are harassment-free.
The new duty would be supported by a code of practice, explaining exactly what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment – such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers, and having clear policies.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“It’s a scandal that so many people experience sexual harassment while just trying to do their jobs.
“We’ve got to put a stop to this once and for all. Too many LGBT+ people are being sexually harassed at work and suffering in silence.
“So ahead of Pride in London on Saturday, I’d love to see all those corporates who’ve rainbowed their logo prove that their commitment to equality lasts beyond pride season. We are calling on them to join our alliance and ask the government to change the law.
“Pride is political and by its very nature is about achieving equality. Ministers must act now.”
- The TUC’s LGBT+ conference will be held today (Thursday) from 11am-6pm and tomorrow (Friday) from 9.30am-5.30pm at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. Speakers include TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and Angela Rayner MP.
- Pride in London is on Saturday (6 July): https://prideinlondon.org/
- TUC research on the sexual harassment of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people is available at: www.tuc.org.uk/news/nearly-7-10-lgbt-people-say-they-have-been-sexually-harassed-work-says-tuc
- The petition launched by the TUC alliance currently has more than 10,000 signatures and can be found at: www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/uk-gov-act-to-prevent-sexual-harassment-at-work
- The organisations in the alliance are: Accord, Action Aid, Amnesty International UK, BDA, Business in the Community, Equality Trust, Equity, Fawcett Society, GMB, Imkaan, LGBT History Month, Musicians’ Union, NASUWT, NEU, Not the Job, Pregnant Then Screwed, Rights of Women, RMT, Schools OUT UK, Stonewall, Time’s Up UK, TUC, UCU, UK Black Pride, UNISON, Usdaw, Young Women’s Trust (other organisations have been invited and the TUC expects the alliance to grow).
- For more information please visit: www.tuc.org.uk/thisisnotworking
- In June, the International Labour Organisation agreed to a treaty on violence and harassment, which will require ILO members including the UK to take action to safeguard people from sexual harassment in the workplace.
- In May, the government stated in reply to a parliamentary question that they would soon be launching a consultation on workplace sexual harassment, including the possibility of a duty on employers to prevent harassment: www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2019-05-15.254853.h
- Congress 2019 will be held in the Brighton Centre from Sunday 8 September to Wednesday 11 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/applying-media-or-external-visitor-credentials and completing an online form. Applications must be in by noon on Tuesday 27 August. Any received later than that will be processed in Brighton and will cost £75 +VAT.
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.