Last week, it was revealed that nearly 500 employees at one of the worlds leading insurance providers had been victim to or witnessed sexual harassment during the last year.
Reports of bullying and harassment came to light when 18 women reported sexual harassment. (Bloomberg) They claimed that they experienced a range of harassment from physical assault to inappropriate comments. As a result of these reports, the insurance provider has set up a harassment helpline and conducted a survey of their working environment, specifically looking at working conditions for men and women. The results concluded that the experience for women was “less positive than it was for men.''
In fact, the results are rather startling. The survey was sent to 45,000 employees, answered by 6,000 and around 500 people reported that they had either been the victim of or had witnessed sexual harassment in the last 12 months. That’s 8% of all respondents.
“It’s pretty stark and totally unacceptable. The survey is validating in a pretty ugly way the issues that were raised six months ago.”
He then stated he was both “upset and disappointed”.
The Chief Executive has expressed his determination to eradicate these issues in the next ‘3 to 5 years’. He acknowledges that cultural change can take time but has put measures in place to accelerate the changes that are so desperately needed; this includes imposing temporary and lifetime bans for anyone found guilty of indecent behaviour and the introduction of a gender balance plan to reduce the gap in gender inequality.
Is Sexual Harassment a workplace pandemic?
Despite a new high profile in the wake of movements like #MeToo, sexual harassment in workplaces is far from a new problem. It goes back years, but the Government does not collect data on sexual harassment in the workplace. Surveys are often conducted by the media and other charities or organisations to gather data that shows the true scale of the problem. Although, these figures are not likely to be a true representation due to a large amount of people that don’t report it.
ComRes conducted research through BBC Radio 5 Live in 2017 and found that from over 2000 adults surveyed, 53% of women and 20% of men experienced some sort of sexual harassment at work or a place of study. This could range from being shown pornographic material, verbal harassment or sexual assault.
As you can see in the above statistic, it’s not just a problem in workplaces. The Guardian found that over half of UK students have faced unwanted sexual behaviour. And on top of this, of the surveyed students, only a fraction of those victims of these advances reported their incidents.
For more information about what is being done to combat sexual harassment in UK workplaces, take a look at the ‘Sexual harassment in the workplace - House of Commons‘ report.
What can be done to tackle sexual harassment in workplaces?
Employers have a responsibility to make sure that employees feel safe and free from harassment at work. Employers can lead by example by making it clear to employees that Sexual harassment of any kind is not tolerated at work. They might:
- Hold/give mandatory training for managers and employees
- Develop and publish a zero-tolerance policy
- Make sure that staff have a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is
- Establish a trusted reporting system for workplace incidents
If employers make it clear from the beginning of employment that they do not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, then employees will feel safe and part of a workplace culture where they can speak up if they are experiencing this harassment.
Half of British women and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study.
Workplace awareness training can be used as an effective tool to make staff more aware of sexual harassment, how to prevent it and how to report it. Our Sexual Harassment Awareness training course raises awareness of sexual harassment, identifies the different ways it’s committed, and considers how best to confront and deal with it in the workplace. This training is suitable for all levels of staff and can be used to help ensure there is a culture of treating one another with dignity and respect.