Government to let victims of workplace harassment ‘have their say’ on future policy

Posted On: 
16th January 2020

Victims of sexual harassment are to be given a say by the Government on the best way to tackle the problem.

Women's Minister Victoria Atkins said the survey would "help us build a clear picture of who is affected and where"
Credit: 
PA

Surveys will be sent to over 12,000 people across the UK, asking them about their experiences of sexual harassment inside and outside the workplace.

The initiative, which is being run by the Government Equalities Office, will allow victims to help draw up future policy.

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It comes after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published new guidance on Wednesday which outlines ways to prevent workplace harassment.

Its report includes advice on what forms harassment takes, the effect of harassment in the workplace and how employers should respond to complaints. 

The equalities watchdog said the advice was published due to “widespread demand”, and that there was an “overwhelming” need for tougher action.

A response to the Government’s survey, as well as the EHRC’s recommendations, is set to be published in the spring. 

Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins, said: "Sexual harassment is wrong and survivors must be able to share their stories. 

“This survey will help us build a clear picture of who is affected and where. Working together with business, we can stamp it out.”

‘SYMBOLICALLY IMPORTANT’

The Government's move was welcomed by many equality charities and organisations.

Andrew Bazeley, from the women’s rights charity Fawcett Society, said he “welcomed this step” in tackling sexual harassment.

He added: "Our engagement with women finds that they want to see real changes that build on the momentum of the #MeToo campaign. 

“We need to move away from putting the onus on individual women, by putting a mandatory duty on employers to prevent harassment."

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady also welcomed the new survey, and called on Ms Atkins to work with unions to help support victims.

He said: “The next step must be to change the law so that responsibility for preventing harassment at work sits with employers, not victims.

“The government must work not only with business, but with unions too. 

“We are at the frontline of providing support to victims of sexual harassment. And we negotiate better workplace policies and training to stop it in the first place.”

But Jenn Selby, Great London Assembly Candidate for the Women’s Equality Party, said that while the survey was “symbolically” important, the Government needed to ensure it followed through.

She said: "Many survivors are familiar with the feeling of being encouraged to speak out and report their experiences, only.

“It's therefore really important that the government follows through with their promises and ensures that the new Code of Practice and the upcoming consultation are as rigorous and effective as possible. 

“Because all women should have the right to live and work free from harassment and abuse."