A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has claimed that corrosive working cultures, including the use of non-disclosure agreements, have silenced the voices of victims and normalised sexual harassment. The Commission has also put forward a set of recommendations to better protect people at work.
Focusing on changing culture, greater transparency and strengthening legal protection, the recommendations call on Government to introduce legislation preventing employers from using non-disclosure agreements to sweep sexual harassment under the carpet and protect their reputation. Instead, they should only be used at a victim’s request.
The recommendations also call for the time limit to bring a claim of sexual harassment to tribunal to be extended to six months, reflecting the time taken by many individuals to raise complaints.
“We set out to discover how sexual harassment at work is dealt with by employers and how it is experienced by individuals,” explained Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Commission. “What we found was truly shocking. There is a lack of consistent, effective action being taken by employers, and people’s careers and mental and physical health have been damaged as a result.”
“Corrosive cultures have silenced individuals and sexual harassment has been normalised,” she said. “We underestimate extent and we are complacent as to impact. We need urgent action to turn the tables in British workplaces; shifting from the current culture of people risking their jobs and health in order to report harassment, to placing the onus on employers to prevent and resolve it. That’s what our recommendations set out to do.”
“It cannot be right that millions of people go to work fearing what might have happened by the time they come home,” she added. “Employers need to stand up and take responsibility for eliminating sexual harassment from every British workplace.”
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