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  • International Workplace
  • 23 October 2019
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Call for legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work

One in four young women say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment at work for fear of losing their job, according to a survey by the charity Young Women’s Trust.

Despite TUC research showing that 63% of young women have been sexually harassed at work, Young Women’s Trust has revealed that just 6% have reported it. 

When asked what would put them off reporting, a quarter say they fear losing their job, one in five say they feared being given fewer hours at work, and one in three say they do not know how to report sexual harassment.

Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive, Sophie Walker, said:

"When will the men who make political decisions, run workplaces and lead businesses decide that respect and equality for women is important?

“No woman should feel unsafe at work or put up with sexual harassment as something that's part of the day job – we've heard so many testimonies, read so many reports and yet it's still not mandatory to stop this from happening.”

Fears are even higher among young women of colour and young women with a disability or long-term health condition, with 30% and 37% respectively saying they would fear losing their job if they reported sexual harassment.

The charity’s research shows that these fears are not without foundation. Sixteen percent of young women say they “know of cases of sexual harassment at work that have been reported and not dealt with properly”. Five percent, or one in 20, young women say they have had to change job due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse. Eight percent of young women say they have been treated less well at work because they rejected sexual advances.

Young women are critical of employers’ efforts to tackle sexual harassment. One in ten say they feel “let down by their employer’s efforts to tackle sexual harassment at work”. One in three say that “there has been talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement started”.

Walker continued:

“We’re calling on the Government to make it mandatory for all employers to protect their workers and volunteers from harassment and victimisation. Alongside this, employers should make it easier to report abuse by customers and clients, as well as colleagues, and put in place unbiased reporting processes that do not penalise victims.”

The Government recently consulted on possible measures it could take to reduce workplace sexual harassment and make it easier for workers to report issues.

Young Women’s Trust is calling on the Government to:

  • put a legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces;
  • reinstate section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which made employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party (e.g. clients and customers);
  • place a legal duty on employers and organisations to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment; and
  • extend the three-month time limit for employees to bring tribunal cases under the Equality Act to at least six months.