Individual Holding a #MeToo Sign

7 in 10 (68%) people think the #MeToo movement has allowed people to be more open about sexual harassment, according to a new TUC poll published today (07 Feb).

This number is highest amongst women (72%) and young people (78%).

But the TUC says that despite higher levels of awareness, cases of sexual harassment remain alarmingly high.

The union federation is today calling on the government to introduce a legal duty on employers to actively prevent sexual harassment at work.

The call comes as the TUC’s annual HeartUnions week celebrating the work of unions kicks off today. The theme this year is ending sexual harassment at work.

Sexual harassment

TUC research found that more than half (52%) of women – and nearly two-thirds (63%) of young women aged 18-24 years old – have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Around 17,000 young women in the North East joined the workforce in the last year, and there are now 65,000 young women in work in the region.

The TUC says the law on sexual harassment must be changed urgently to stop any more people being harassed.

Changing the law

There is no legal requirement for employers to prevent sexual harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, it is up to the victim to report it after it has happened.

The TUC wants the law changed so employers have a legal duty to make sure that their workplaces are harassment-free – by taking simple preventative steps like carrying out mandatory training for all staff and managers, and having clear policies. 

This would shift the burden of dealing with sexual harassment from individuals to employers. And would change workplace cultures and stop the problem once and for all, says the TUC.

Consultation response delay

The government was due to publish its response to its consultation on changing the law on sexual harassment last month. But it has now been delayed.

TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “The #MeToo movement has helped people speak more openly about sexual harassment. That’s a good a thing.

“But talking about the problem isn’t going to fix it. The government must stop dragging its feet and change the law.

“Employers, not victims, should be responsible for tackling harassment at work.

“We’re calling on everyone who wants to stop sexual harassment to join us this HeartUnions week, and demand ministers take action now.”

A TUC alliance – backed by more than 30 organisations including the Fawcett Society, Imkaan, Amnesty International UK, Stonewall and Time’s Up UK – has launched a petition calling on the government to change the law. 

This week during HeartUnions, workers are stepping up and taking action – where employers and the government have failed to – working with union reps to lead on preventative action in their workplaces.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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