We all know that sexual harassment in the workplace is a major problem. A 2018 survey by the Prospect Union found that 35% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, and 14% have been subjected to unwanted and inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing.
That survey also found that women under 30 are most likely to suffer sexual harassment at work, with a staggering 62% of respondents in this age group saying they’d experienced it.
Now the government is asking sexual harassment survivors of all ages and genders to share their experiences so they can help to shape future policy to tackle the problem. The Government Equalities Office is sending out a survey to 12,200 people in all parts of the UK so that it can “build a picture of how many people are affected”.
The survey will ask respondents to share where they have experienced sexual harassment both inside and outside of the workplace, and to describe the forms of harassment they’ve endured.
“Sexual harassment is wrong and survivors must be able to share their stories,” said Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Women. “This survey will help us build a clear picture of who is affected and where. Working together with business, we can stamp it out.”
In an interview with the BBC, Atkins said the government has already identified 15 different forms of sexual harassment that it deems “serious”.
She also spoke about her own experiences of sexual harassment. “I’m not going to be drawn on the details because I’m not going to be defined by the grubby behaviour of the men that behaved like that towards me,” she said.
“I’ve worked in many workplaces and I suspect like many people I have seen a range of behaviours. Some were the sorts of behaviours you cannot quite brush off but take as part of growing up and adult life. But some behaviours that [I experienced] are also quite uncomfortable and did upset me.”
Using the results of the survey, the government has promised to introduce a new statutory code of practice on sexual harassment.
As part of this promise, it’s pledged to look into the regulation of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), consider whether there should be a new legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and to examine whether extra legal protections are needed for interns and volunteers.
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