We must “not lose momentum” in the fight against sexual harassment at work

A leading employment lawyer has called for action exactly six months after the government announced plans for new legislation 

A leading employment lawyer has called for action exactly six months after the government announced plans for new legislation 

Since the Me Too movement sparked a tide of solidarity among survivors of sexual assault in 2017, sexual harassment at work has become an issue that can no longer be ignored. 

In 2018, the UK Government's Sexual Harassment in the Workplace consultation surveyed more than 130 charities and employers, and over 4,200 members of the public. Over half (54%) of this group said they had experienced harassment at work.

Last July, the government finally published its long awaited response to the consultation, claiming it planned to introduce a new duty to encourage employers to prioritise prevention and draft new legislation accordingly. It also said it would look at extending the time period for claims for workplace sexual harassment under the Equality Act from three to six months.

However, it has announced little more on the issue since.

Deborah Casale, an employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, is now calling on the government not to let their plans fall by the wayside. 

“The Government’s response last year to its consultation was received positively and marked an important step in the right direction for protecting workers and providing clarity for businesses,” said Deborah. “Despite all the discussions and positive engagement with numerous stakeholders though, we don’t appear to be any further forward. It’s vital that we do not lose momentum or lose sight of how important it is to tackle the issue of workplace sexual harassment.”

She added: “The Government should avoid the trap of thinking that the issue is less prevalent because more people are working from home and are more likely to work from home in the future."

“There have been numerous reports which have looked into how remote working has impacted levels of sexual harassment and some have revealed that the problem in some cases has become worse with perpetrators finding new ways to this target their victims via technology."

She continued: “It is important that the government looks to promptly implement its recommendations from the summer of last year."

“The Fawcett Society published a new report last year which revealed that at least 40% of women have experienced workplace harassment over the course of their careers showing that this is a widespread issue which cannot be ignored by the government or employers.”

In short, Deborah shares that “we don’t appear to be any further forward."

What do you reckon - and can the government do more to ensure less sexual harassment at work?

Kate Hollowood
Kate Hollowood is a freelance journalist and writes about a range of topics for Marie Claire UK, from reports on royal news and current affairs to features on health, careers and relationships. Based in London, Kate has also written for titles like the i paper, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan and It’s Nice That.