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One in four women still have a #Weinstein in their workplace

Clare Armstrong, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon

…with more than a third experiencing sexual harassment in the last 12 months, study shows.

A year after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, a new study has found that more than a third of women have been sexually harassed at work in the last 12 months despite the #MeToo movement shining a spotlight on the problem.

The report has revealed that 37% say they have experienced harassment and 39% have witnessed colleagues being abused, with women reporting that they have felt uncomfortable, scared, violated, degraded, intimidated, ashamed and depressed following the harassment.

The majority of cases are committed by men in positions of power, and the report goes on to reveal that 28% claim they still have a ‘Weinstein’ in their workplace – a predatory male colleague or boss who uses his position to prey on female members of staff.

Employment law specialists Slater and Gordon spoke to 2,000 women for the study, which paints a worrying picture of today’s workplace for women post-#MeToo:

Suggestive or inappropriate comments or behaviour were still the most common experiences (16%), but females also told of being subjected to sexually explicit or sexist conduct (11%) and in six per cent of cases, groped.

Just a fifth of women (21%) who had been a recent victim had made a formal complaint. Reasons ranged from believing nothing would be done, fears they wouldn’t be believed, that it would harm their career to claiming it was just the norm in their workplace – a depressing reality for one in five.

The case of Harvey Weinstein has brought to the forefront the ugly environment many people are exposed to at work and it is worrying that despite recent events, it is still such an issue.

We have certainly seen more people contacting us after realising that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable or normal and there is something they can do about it.  

 The MeToo movement has been hugely positive in terms of highlighting the issue and encouraging women to talk about their experiences, but these results do show there is still that fear holding many of them back.  

 It takes courage to report sexual harassment and the confidence that your employer will listen and support you, but I think many companies are still ignorant to the severity of the problem or are choosing to turn a blind eye.

More than half (52%) said their employer had not put in place any measures to combat sexual harassment in the wake of Weinstein and MeToo, fifty-six per cent said their company did not have an anti-harassment policy or if it did, they weren’t aware.

What’s striking is how some workplaces still seem to normalise this behaviour, even in the wake of #MeToo.

Sexual harassment at work is unlawful and can be the basis for an employment tribunal claim against the employer and the individual perpetrator. Employers are obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent it and if they fail to do so they are unlikely to have a good defence.

There is currently no legal obligation on companies to have an anti-harassment policy, but making this mandatory is a necessary step.

We would also like to see the reintroduction of mandatory equality questionnaires where employees can ask questions about any incidents of harassment and discrimination.

Although it is good practice for employers to respond to questions, there is no statutory time frame or automatic inference of discrimination if they fail to, as used to be the case.

Clare Armstrong, Employment Lawyer, Slater and Gordon

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