• International Workplace
  • 8 March 2019

Make bosses liable for sexual harassment against staff, says UNISON

Employers who fail to tackle members of the public who grope and subject female staff to lewd jokes should be held to account, UNISON has said.

A motion debated at UNISON’s annual women’s conference in Bournemouth is seeking better protection for employees from unwelcome advances by people using public services, including parents and patients, as well as their friends and relatives.

It wants to see the reinstatement of Section 40 of the Equality Act – a clause that ensured staff doing their jobs were safeguarded against third-party harassment. Under this clause, employers were liable if they failed to act after two incidents.

However, the Coalition government scrapped this ‘three-strikes’ rule in October 2013 on the grounds that other laws gave staff similar protection, a claim disputed by UNISON.

Speaking at UNISON’s annual women’s conference, Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea said:

“If we believe the media, it’s only young glamorous women who get harassed. But it’s not just actors and models who suffer. It’s also the cleaner, school secretary, healthcare assistant, call centre worker or finance officer.

“They feel they have to put up with the unwanted touching or personal remarks because they’re worried about their job and making a complaint would affect their future.

“Workplaces should be harassment-free zones. There must be tougher policies, a clearer understanding of what harassment is, and a zero-tolerance approach.”