Survey suggests sexual harassment not being reported in the workplace

A survey carried out by Personio of 2,000 employees found that 10% of those surveyed had witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, but 49% of those employees did not report the sexual harassment to their employer.

The report discloses further detail behind the rationale as to why the employees did not report the sexual harassment to their employer:

  • 43% said they feared retaliation or retribution if they reported the issue;
  • 48% did not trust senior leadership at the organisation to deal with the matter;
  • 18% did not believe that their organisation would protect their anonymity if they reported misconduct;
  • 18% did not feel that there was an accessible or anonymous reporting mechanism at their organisation.

Comment

This report identifies a number of issues that employees are faced with when sexual harassment takes place in the workplace. The report highlights that to effectively deal with sexual harassment at work, employers need to have a reporting mechanism that is fit for purpose, and which instils confidence in employees that the management culture in the workplace is one which does not tolerate sexual harassment and, very importantly, will be supportive of those who raise concerns about such issues. While anonymity will not always be possible, it is important that employees are reassured that the confidentiality of the information they disclose will be protected and that any retaliation or negative treatment from colleagues in response to this disclosure will be dealt with efficiently and effectively utilising the appropriate disciplinary and/or performance management procedures.

Perhaps most alarming headline from the report is the statistic that 30% believed they would achieve more by going to the media about misconduct than by going to the employer’s management team. Evidently, this statistic highlights that there are not only legal risks arising from sexual harassment in the workplace but also the risk of reputational damage.

The need for employers to have a robust reporting mechanism is not only important in light of this report, but also due to the new proactive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace which comes into force in October this year. If an employee can evidence the type of issues identified above in respect of an employer’s sexual harassment procedures, then they may be able to establish a breach of the statutory duty.

It should not be forgotten that sexual harassment in the workplace has been unlawful for decades and such behaviour can already result in employment tribunal proceedings being issued not only against a predatory colleague but also against an employer by virtue of existing provisions prohibiting discriminatory conduct set out in Equality Act 2010 but the evidence seems to indicate that there is still a long way to go before many workers will feel confident that their place of work will genuinely be a zero-tolerance zone where they can feel safe and protected from discriminatory behaviour.

Collingwood Legal is hosting a FREE WEBINAR on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace on 2 May 2024 at 10am. The webinar will cover the new duty and what employers can do in advance of the new duty coming into force.

To book a place, please click here to register.

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Collingwood Legal have worked closely with the College on a number of key projects. The Collingwood Legal team have consistently provided valuable advice and I would highly recommend their personable and candid approach.

Principal at Leading FE College