An alliance of more than 20 unions, charities and women’s rights organisations has launched a petition calling for a new law to make employers prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces.

“This Is Not Working” has been launched by the TUC, Amnesty international UK, the Fawcett Society, Stonewall, the Young Women’s Trust and Business in the Community, among others.

They have highlighted the fact that four out of five (79%) women who have been sexually harassed at work do not feel able to report it to their employer which means, they argue, that harassment continues unchecked in workplaces across the UK.

While TUC research found that more than half (52%) of women —and nearly seven out of 10 LGBT people — have experienced sexual harassment at work, however, there is currently no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their workplaces.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government must strengthen the law to put responsibility for preventing harassment on employers. This would shift the burden of tackling sexual harassment away from individuals. And it would help end toxic workplace cultures that silence those who’ve been harassed”.

The new duty would be supported by a code of practice, explaining what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment — such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers and having clear policies.

The alliance has launched a petition calling on the Government to bring in the new law. It can be found at www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/uk-gov-act-to-prevent-sexual-harassment-at-work.

The Government has previously said that it intends to launch a consultation on tackling sexual harassment.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

While no employer will like to think of sexual harassment taking place in their organisation, the statistics reveal the extent to which this occurs in workplaces across the UK.

This isn’t to say that policies on equality and anti-discrimination are wholly ineffective, but rather that more guidance is needed for employers in preventing sexual harassment from occurring in the first place.

Due to the varying nature of business operations, there will never be a one-size fits all approach to preventing sexual harassment.

However, an increase in liability, combined with a well-constructed code of conduct could prove significant in tackling the issue, helping to improve the working environment for a great number of staff across the UK.

Last reviewed 4 July 2019