The TUC have today issued their findings of a survey into sexual harassment at work experienced by women in a range of workplaces. The survey was completed by 1500 women, 52% of whom said that they had experienced sexual harassment at work. Examples of sexually harassing behaviour included comments made about women’s appearance, their clothes, inappropriate touching (a hand on the lower back or knee or attempts to kiss them). Very few of those who experienced workplace sexual harassment did anything about it. Whilst an interesting read, the subject of workplace harassment is wider than just sexual harassment displayed towards women. Harassment can take many forms. Men can equally be harassed at work. Individuals regardless of gender can be harassed for their sexuality, their race, age, because they are pregnant, going through gender reassignment, because they are married, in a civil partnership or because of their religion. The TUC in their report advocate having a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment yet this must apply to ALL forms of workplace harassment. The report does not touch on bullying behaviour – an equally detrimental behaviour within workplaces which is more subjective, often less recognisable and less understood. We don’t agree that the way to deal with harassment (and bullying) at work is to join a union as the General Secretary of the TUC suggests. Organisations must educate, raise awareness, set expectations of appropriate workplace behaviour and demonstrate robust responses when concerns are raised either informally or formally. Of course support is important, and unions have a role to play – but the options for provision of support are not limited to becoming a union member. The financial cost to businesses and the human cost to individuals of bullying at work and harassment at work makes this a subject we should all be concerned about.
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