Sexual harassment and #MeToo

10 September 2018

The #MeToo campaign has put sexual harassment into the spotlight. The original news stories involved high profile public figures. It triggered women from all backgrounds sharing their stories about sexual harassment at work.

The Women and Equalities Commission has produced a report on sexual harassment in the workplace. The initial commentary is fairly damning. It cites endemic sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace. It urges employers and regulators to put the same emphasis on sexual harassment as they do other high-profile issues such as data protection. The report describes the cases which come to court as representing only the tip of the iceberg.

The report also criticises the use of non-disclosure agreements. They can be helpful in settling claims but can mask the problem rather than resolve it.

The report advises that government action should include:

  • Pushing sexual harassment to the top of the agenda, by introducing new harassment prevention duties, supported by a statutory code of practice;
  • Making sure interns and volunteers are protected as well as employees;
  • Getting regulators to play a more active role, including setting out what they will do to tackle the issue and ensure enforcement;
  • Making enforcement processes work better for employees, by giving guidance in the statutory code of practice and changing some of the tribunal rules to make the process easier for claimants;
  • Cleaning up the use of non-disclosure agreements by requiring the use of standard terms with clear explanations;
  • Extending whistleblowing rules so that disclosures to the police or regulators like the Equality and Human Rights Commission are covered.

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