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.”