The workplace is where employees come together to carry out tasks and fulfil their role, however, sadly it seems that some working environments are rife with sexual harassment.
So much so that in 2018 40% of women and 18% of men revealed that they had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace, according to Government research.
It seems that one organisation has also recently discovered how common sexual harassment can be. After commissioning its own survey to investigate its culture, Lloyd’s of London has revealed that nearly one in ten workers have witnessed unwelcome sexual advances and harassment in the past year, the Independent reported.
John Neal, Chief Executive of Lloyd’s, said that the findings from the poll of more than 6,000 staff were far worse than he anticipated and laid bare the scale of the toxicity within the 333-year-old insurance market, which had ‘far too long gone unspoken’.
Last week, HR Grapevine reported that the British insurance market launched the survey on the back of a recent Bloomberg investigation which highlighted the extreme evidence of sexual assault and harassment particularly against female employees.
Lloyd’s new survey discovered that eight per cent (almost 500 people) had seen some form of sexual harassment in the past 12 months, while 22% claimed that they had seen people in their organisation turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour.
In addition, the survey discovered that nearly a quarter of respondents had witnessed excessive drinking of alcohol in the market in the past year.
One in five shared that they feel staff do not have equal opportunities, with Lloyd’s admitting that for every question, the female respondents’ answers reflected a more negative view and experience than their male counterparts.
Following the survey, Neal revealed that he hopes the findings would mark a turning point for the organisation.
He said: “The results are ugly. They are stark. They are unacceptable,” reported the PA news agency. “By being very transparent and stark about the way in which we represent the numbers, it will shock people into action.
“The results of this survey have highlighted the urgency with which we must address the negative actions and behaviours that have for too long gone unspoken and with impunity.
“Although the change we need to see will take time, I know that the vast majority of people in our market are as committed as I am to taking action.”
Lloyd’s has since set out a series of long-term initiatives to stamp out this kind of behaviour, which include encouraging workers to speak out about bullying or harassment in the workplace. In addition, it is also training workers to empower individuals to act and intervene if they witness inappropriate behaviour.
Neal has also pledged to see action taken from the most senior staff within the organisation to ensure they are not turning a blind eye. He added: “If the leaders are turning a blind eye, then change won’t happen. We’ll hold these leaders to account.”
What should HR be doing?
Lloyd’s initial measures to tackle harassment within the workplace are steps in the right direction to promoting a safe and positive culture, but what more could HR departments be doing to ensure unacceptable behaviour doesn’t reach this damaging level?
Building a culture that recognises employees’ thoughts and beliefs is essential, while introducing every individual to a trained member of staff to report allegations to is necessary to help both women and men feel safe in the workplace.
In addition, partnering with charities to share advice on topics such as bullying and harassment and supplying helplines will also provide employees with a direct point of contact whom they can gain advice from.