Government code of practice to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Coded approach: the Government has announced a package of measures to tackle sexual harassment at work
Coded approach: the Government has announced a package of measures to tackle sexual harassment at work
The Government has announced a package of commitments to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace – something that 40% of hospitality workers have experienced according to ComRes.

Launched on 18 December, the Government has announced a package of 12 measures including consultations on legal protections and additional protections for volunteers and interns.

This includes the introduction of a new statutory code of practice on sexual harassment, to be developed by the Equality & Human Rights Commission.

Moreover, in response to the Women & Equalities Select Committee report, the Government's equalities office has pledged to carry out work with the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service (ACAS), the Equality & Human Rights Commission and employers on how to prevent and address sexual harassment at work.

‘Continues to disappoint’

Minister for women Victoria Atkins commented: “Sexual harassment at work is illegal, but sadly that disgusting behaviour is something that many women still experience today.

“We are taking action to make sure employers know what they have to do to protect their staff, and people know their rights at work and what action to take if they feel intimidated or humiliated.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.”

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst, who replaced Richard Harrington MP​ as the minister responsible for overseeing the enforcement of the pubs code in November, commented: “It continues to disappoint me that in this day and age some women still face discrimination and harassment at work.

“One part of this is the minority of cases where non-disclosure agreements are used unethically, and employees may not be aware of their protections and rights.

“We will be consulting on these.”

The Government has also pledged to consult on whether additional safeguards are needed for volunteers and interns.

Survey findings

According to the BBC’s sexual harassment in the workplace survey conducted by ComRes in November 2017, 40% of women and 18% of men have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work at some point.

The same survey also found that 40% of workers in the hospitality industry have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work – a higher proportion of workers than in the retail, transport, technology and telecoms, services, manufacturing, public and construction sectors – and that 46% of workers on zero hours contracts had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work.

According to GQ Magazine’s​ recent state of man survey conducted with YouGov, more than one in 10 respondents (12%) in the 25 to 34 age bracket believed that asking a colleague for a drink to discuss work constituted sexual harassment – compared to 3% in the 16-24 age group.

Related topics: Health & safety

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