'Endemic' | Unions warn ministers to not backtrack on sexual harassment bill

Unions warn ministers to not backtrack on sexual harassment bill

In a joint letter, unions and groups have warned the Government to not backtrack on plans to implement legislation forcing employers to protect their workers from sexual harassment.

The Worker Protection Bill would introduce a legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment from clients and customers in the workplace, which they have described as “endemic” across UK sectors.

But ministers are reportedly planning to drop the Bill after objections from Conservative backbenchers who have claimed it would force business owners to run their company like a “police state.”

In the letter addressed to the Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, groups such as the TUC, Fawcett Society, Amnesty International and Pregnant Then Screwed expressed their concern around ministers going back on promises to instate the The Worker Protection Bill, saying that sexual harassment disproportionately impacts marginalised groups in society.

The letter reads: “We know that half of working women will experience workplace sexual harassment. It is even higher for LGBT+, disabled, and Black women but these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg as 79% of women do not report their experiences.”

Campaigners in the letter point to recent examples of sexual harassment such as within lobbying group CBI and at the Presidents Club dinner in 2018 where women workers were groped and harassed by customers, including some prominent business founders.

“Third party harassment is extensive,” continues the letter. “56% of women working in the hospitality industry have experienced sexual harassment as have three in five nurses while carrying out their work.

“From the Presidents Club scandal to more recent allegations emerging from the CBI we know that sexual harassment is endemic and must be addressed.”

Movement after #MeToo

Supporters of the Bill have cited the #MeToo movement, which saw people publicising their own experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, as a turning point in awareness around sexual misconduct in the workplace.

A report from the TUC found that over one-in-two women and seven-out-of-ten LGBT+ workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society CEO, has criticised those ministers that are turning a blind eye to the issue. She says: “We need to see a serious commitment from this government to better protect women at work.

“It's nothing short of scandalous that some Tory Peers have sought to play politics with a bill which would offer the first significant increase in protections for women since the #metoo movement.

“Women deserve and demand better. It's time for this government to deliver.”

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