False Allegations of Sexual Harassment

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2005 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2005
Carried as Amended

Many of us have fought for years for equality in all areas. We have had some successes, including some excellent employment laws. However, as many lesbians and gay men are aware, these laws can sometimes be used against us and when they are, there is very little in the way of information and support.

One example with very particular relevance to local government is that of the vulnerability of our members to false accusations of sexual harassment. Many of our members are regularly alone either with one other colleague or with a single member of the public or client in the course of their duties, including workers in home care, small libraries, careers advice, environmental health, trading standards, schools, voluntary organisations, to name just a few of the sectors. Conference notes that any member may be at the receiving end of such a false accusation, but there appears to be growing evidence that lesbian, gay and bisexual workers are particularly likely to face this threat.

Without question, we must support anyone going through genuine harassment and without doubt UNISON and other trade unions must continue to provide information and support. However, what about the victims of false allegations? Many of us either have first hand experience or experience of representing members who are clearly the victim of false allegations. We notice that using the harassment policy can represent an easy way to harass someone through false accusations that are malicious in nature and can have devastating effects on our members’ health and career prospects.

Whilst welcoming the strides we have made in saying harassment in any form is not acceptable, we need to be aware of the dangers that we may be more vulnerable to false allegations being made against us.

A starting point should be to gather evidence of just how many members, including in particular bisexual members, lesbians and gay men have suffered at the hands of false accusers, as well as the outcomes of such cases. We need to ensure that the right to representation of members who are accused of harassment is also met according to UNISON’s policies and procedures.

That a member who is accused of a serious sexual allegation of a service user or member of staff can lead to the arrest or even charge of the member. The result of a false allegation can lead to the arrest and/or charge being record on your Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. Such a record is very difficult to remove even if the charges are dropped and the employers accepts that the allegations was malicious the members future career prospects have been seriously damaged as the incident will remain part of the CRB report.

This Conference calls on:

1)The Local Government Service Group Executive, regional local government committees and all branches in the local government service group to raise awareness of these issues, in liaison with the self-organised groups

2)The appropriate national negotiating committees and local negotiators to ensure issues are raised with employers when negotiating harassment policies

3)The service group executive to liaise with the Legal Department to update the Legal Brief “Accused of Abuse” to incorporate these issues, including the issue CRB checks and distribute to branches and report back to next year’s conference

4)To immediately talk to the relevant government minister about CRB checks and records in an attempt to ensure that members are not discriminated against in future employment due to a false allegation/s and report to Branches and SOC’s, etc