Often dismissed as a bit of banter or simply a joke, sexual harassment within the workplace is a harsh reality for those who experience it.
Although both males and females can experience sexual harassment at work, 79% of victims are women, according to the Association of Women for Action and Research.
The extent of the problem was highlighted earlier this week with a report by the Trade Union Congress, which found over half of women (52%) had been subject to some sort of sexual harassment at work.
Almost one quarter of the 1,500 women who took part in the survey said they had experienced unwanted touching at work and 28% of women have been subject to comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes.
However, most of women felt they could not report it in fear it would affect their relationships at work or they wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Although sexual harassment may not seem obvious to others, it can take place in many forms, including indecent or suggestive remarks, unwelcome and inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing and requests for sexual favours.
Nic Hammarling, head of diversity at Pearn Kandola, said: “Perhaps one of the most depressing things about sexism in the workplace is that it only gets worse.
“Employers should note that having a policy on sexual harassment is not enough. Likewise, putting up posters about a zero-tolerance approach to harassment is not enough”.
Ms Hammarling outlines six key things employers should do to stop sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Start at the top
- Educate yourself on behaviours
- Be vigilant
- Understand your employees
- Take it seriously
- Put a stop to it
What can individuals do if they are experiencing sexual harassment?
- Take Note
- Confront the perpetrator
If lots of people around you are behaving inappropriately, then this is more of a question of culture change in the workplace. If you’re strong-willed and happy to deal with potential difficulties, then go challenge the culture directly. If you’re a little unsure, then find some help.
- Ask for support