Sexual harassment scandals involving some of our best-known celebrities, actors and politicians have dominated the headlines in recent months.
But it seems the scale of the epidemic stretches far beyond Hollywood and Westminster. According to a new study, the issue of harassment is commonplace in UK workplaces, with two in five women being subjected to unwanted behaviour.
Of equal concern is that only a quarter of those affected choose to report the matter.
Meanwhile, nearly one in five men (18%) say they have been harassed at work, according to the survey of more than 6,000 people, while flexible workers, including those on zero hours contracts, the self-employed and gig economy workers, are most likely to encounter such behaviour.
The study, conducted by the BBC, asked workers about the most common behaviours they had faced, ranging from unwelcome jokes to pornography and rape.
It follows high profile scandals involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, who stand accused of harassment and assault, and the subsequent #MeToo Twitter campaign, which saw people from across the world sharing their stories of abuse and mistreatment.
What does it mean for employers?
With the likelihood of further revelations in the coming months and a continued focus on the issues involved, the scandal – and these statistics – should serve as a stark reminder to businesses and organisations to ensure they have clear policies in place to protect staff.
Sexual harassment is prohibited by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 and can include spoken words, gestures or the production and display of written words, pictures and other material. That can be a fellow worker, a boss or supervisor, a client, a customer or any other business contact.
There are measures you can take to protect your business and create a safe and secure working environment for your staff. Publishing a comprehensive workplace policy, outlining what is and isn’t acceptable, is a sensible first step in creating a culture where harassment is not tolerated.
The policy should be implemented when required, be easily assembled to staff and be part of a wider training programme to ensure everyone knows what it means for them.
How can Gotelee help?
In the current climate, employers may well reflect on how effective their organisation is at protecting staff and dealing with those who break the rules.
Gotelee’s team of employment law experts can provide you with advice and training on how to create a safe workplace, and help you to implement any necessary changes.