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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Sexual harrassment victims suffering amid 'corrosive' working cultures

Written by Alan Jones

Victims of sexual harassment at work need better protection because their voices have been silenced by "corrosive" cultures, a report has said.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called on the Government to introduce legislation stopping employers from ignoring complaints to protect their reputation.

The commission said it had discovered "truly shocking" examples of sexual harassment, including a 17-year-old who locked herself in a toilet after men "joked" about rape, and a woman who revealed she lost her job and her health.

The commission said firms should not use non-disclosure agreements to sweep sexual harassment under the carpet.

There should be a new legal duty on employers to prevent harassment or victimisation, as well as more protection for victims, said the EHRC.

It also suggested that managers should be given training on how to tackle any problems.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, said: "We set out to discover how sexual harassment at work is dealt with by employers and how it is experienced by individuals. What we found was truly shocking.

"There is a lack of consistent, effective action being taken by employers, and people's careers and mental and physical health have been damaged as a result.

"Corrosive cultures have silenced individuals and sexual harassment has been normalised. We underestimate extent and we are complacent as to impact.

"We need urgent action to turn the tables in British workplaces, shifting from the current culture of people risking their jobs and health in order to report harassment, to placing the onus on employers to prevent and resolve it.

"It cannot be right that millions of people go to work fearing what might have happened by the time they come home."

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, commented: "No woman should face humiliation, intimidation or harassment at work.

"Sadly it's becoming increasingly clear not only that it's an all too common experience but that far too many employers are turning a blind eye or even silencing victims of harassment."

Young Women's Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: "We have heard a huge amount of testimonies that show how widespread this problem is but so far we have seen very little action."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Philip Toscano / PA Wire.

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