Sexual Harassment – where are we now?

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2020 National Women's Conference
22 October 2019

Conference, in 2017 a motion was proposed to this conference following the publication of a report by the TUC in 2016 entitled ��Still Just A Bit of Banter��. This report highlighted the ubiquitous sexual harassment that was going on in our workplaces, and even more concerning, the lack of reporting of this harassment to employers or trade unions. A quick reminder of the shocking statistics:1) 52% of women had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, with that figure rising to 63% for young women (18-24).2) 79% of those who had been sexually harassed did not report it to their employer. 3)16% of those who reported sexual harassment to their employer were treated worse afterwards.Over the last year, the #MeToo movement has really shone the spotlight on many women�s experiences of sexual harassment, encouraging those who have felt marginalised and been silenced to speak out.Sexual harassment is any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that makes you feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. And the Equality Act 2010 says that employers are legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed by another employee, and the employer had not taken all steps they could to prevent it from happening. Some brave women have spoken at conference of their own horrible experiences, and we know from the daily reports that it has not gone away.The TUC has launched a campaign to request a new law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace before it happens, which would require employers to take all reasonable steps to protect workers from sexual harassment and victimisation. Unison has also launched the #UsToo campaign, to make workplaces harassment free zones. This campaign emphasises the inadequacy of the current laws and asks for a change. I would urge you to add your voice to this campaign.There have been some brilliant examples of campaigns in some of our branches and regions on this issue. Eastern Region Young Members produced a campaign entitled: �Uncomfortable Yet?�, and all members should look at this campaign and distribute the literature amongst your branches if you have not already done so. Another great example is of a local branch working with the local authority employer following the results of an employee survey, to implement comprehensive policy guidance on sexual harassment, instead of just throwing it in generically with bullying and harassment, which as we all know contributes to an attitude that sexual harassment in particular isn�t really a problem.As Trade Union representatives we must all continue to fight this unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, talk to your members, provide literature and consider a workshop on sexual harassment so that women feel that they can speak out, and the perpetrators become aware that we are not going away. We will not allow them to carry on with their reprehensible and illegal behaviour, that where Unison is in the workplace, sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Conference therefore calls upon National Women�s Committee to:a)Seek feedback from regions about steps that they have taken to tackle this issue and provide support to enable further awareness raising and training.b)Work with the Young Member�s Committee to carry on campaigning to keep Sexual Harassment on the agenda.c)Be a champion for branches where best practice has been implemented so that it can be rolled out to all branches.