Attitudes To Sexual Harassment Changing
The #MeToo movement, not to mention the high-profile sexual harassment cases and revelations that led to the start of this initiative, appear to have set some changes in motion.
New research by the Fawcett Society found that over half (53 per cent) of people believe that since the #MeToo movement started, what’s considered acceptable has changed. The organisation noted that what’s even more encouraging is that more people are prepared to call out such behaviour than before.
This is most likely among the 18 to 34 age group, with half of young people saying they’d speak out against sexual harassment. Among young men, this was 58 per cent.
Although older people are less likely to speak out against sexual harassment or talk about the issue, they also believe that there has been a change in attitude when it comes to what is and isn’t acceptable.
In fact, over half (56 per cent) of men aged over 55 said that they believed this to be the case.
While this is all positive, the Fawcett Society believes that the government isn’t doing enough to protect women, and that there should be legislation introduced to improve the situation.
One of the big failings in the law, according to the organisation, is that there’s no legal protection for women who are harassed by a client or customer. It cited the scandal surrounding the Presidents Club dinner that came out in January this year.
Allegations that some of the men who attended these exclusive dinners sexually harassed the hostesses hired to work at the event broke following an investigation by the Financial Times. One of the paper’s reporters worked at the annual charity fundraiser and revealed what she experienced and witnessed.
Following the revelations, many of the charities that benefited from donations from the event said they would be returning them, and attendees sought to distance themselves from the scandal.
One of the issues highlighted was that the women working there were asked to sign a five-page non-disclosure agreement on arrival at the hotel on the night of the event.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, commented: “We need to bring back section 40 of the Equality Act which would outlaw harassment from customers and clients. But we also need to go further and place a new duty on large employers to prevent discrimination and harassment.”
Introducing this law would also protect women from harassment by patients in the healthcare sector, or from contractors. Personnel Today noted that section 40 of the Equality Act was repealed in 2013.
At the time, the government explained that section 40 wasn’t necessary because there were other legal protections in place, such as within the Equality Act and the Protection from Harassment Act, Crunch reported.
Whether there will be any changes in legislation as a result of these movements has yet to be seen, but regardless it’s important to ensure that all your employees are protected from harassment from colleagues, clients and contractors, and that they have a way of reporting any harassment that does occur.
These cases can be complicated, so working with specialist harassment solicitors on any complaints you’re dealing with can be advisable to ensure you handle the process properly and fairly to all parties.