Alok Sharma MP: Extending protections to those most vulnerable to violence and harassment at work
This Government is determined to protect millions of workers, and build a future free of workplace sexual harassment and violence, says Alok Sharma MP, the Minister of State for Employment.
Last week, the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work met in Geneva. The Convention brought together representatives from 187 countries to discuss making the world of work a safer place for both men and women.
Sadly, violence and harassment in the workplace is a global issue and will therefore need to be met with a global response. With global participation in the labour market increasing, we need to ensure that we are evolving together with these changes.
There has never been a more important moment for the international community to act to protect people at work. We have finally begun to cast a spotlight on the areas of the working world, where companies or employers are not adhering to standards. The #MeToo movement has highlighted what more needs to be done; from the most powerful industries right down to marginalised sectors; to ensure that the most vulnerable and exploited are protected.
The UK is the first country in the world to have dedicated legislation to tackle modern slavery and the Prime Minister has sought to tackle this terrible crime by defending the British values of tolerance and mutual respect that define our society. We brought forward Europe’s first ‘Modern Slavery Act’ which gives law enforcement the tools they need to tackle modern slavery and people trafficking.
This work does not stop at home, in total £150m of aid funding has been committed by the Government to tackle modern slavery across the globe, enabling more work in collaboration with source and transit countries.
The UK has also been vocal in its support for a Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. When I met the ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, at the G7 Employment Ministers’ Meeting in March, I was clear that the UK will continue to lead on this important issue.
In recent weeks, Human Rights Watch and Care International have contacted me directly to express their view and collectively we will take this opportunity to act and galvanise international action.
I am pleased that we have achieved our ambition and the ILO committee has agreed that there should be a new Convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work. It seeks to promote key principles, including recognition that women and girls are more likely to suffer violence and harassment.
More than one-third of the world’s countries do not have any laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work and there is no international legal standard to specifically protect women at work from harassment and abuse. Women and sexual gender minority workers have suffered for too long because of a lack of a legal framework and due to a power imbalance.
Going forward we are committed to achieving a Convention which makes a global difference; extending protections to individuals who are most vulnerable to violence and harassment. But there is still more work to be done to get it right when we return to the negotiations next year.
This includes protecting those who suffer discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Sadly, these can all tilt the power balance further away from working men and women and towards abusers. And we will be working to bring the Convention into line with the strong protections already in place in the UK, and making sure it is practical to implement.
This Government is determined to protect millions of workers, and build a future free of workplace sexual harassment and violence.
Alok Sharma is the Minister of State for Employment and Conservative MP for Reading West.
The British Safety Council have responded saying "The British Safety Council firmly believe that nobody should be injured,harassed or made ill at, or by, work. It is essential that co-ordinated action is progressed on a global basis to ensure all workers are suitably protected from harm within the workplace.
The UK should continue to be a world leader in tackling modern slavery and work place harm and the British Safety Council will fully support the extension of protections to those most vulnerable to violence, harm and harassment at work.""