Make bosses liable for sexual harassment against staff, says UNISON

Employers who fail to tackle members of the public who grope and subject female staff to lewd jokes should be held to account, says UNISON today (Saturday).

A motion debated at UNISON’s annual women’s conference in Bournemouth is seeking better protection for employees from unwelcome advances by people using public services, including parents and patients, as well as their friends and relatives.

It wants to see the reinstatement of Section 40 of the Equality Act – a clause that ensured staff doing their jobs were safeguarded against third-party harassment. Under this clause, employers were liable if they failed to act after two incidents.

However, the Coalition government scrapped this ‘three-strikes’ rule in October 2013 on the grounds that other laws gave staff similar protection, a claim disputed by UNISON.

Speaking at UNISON’s annual women’s conference today (Saturday), assistant general secretary Christina McAnea is expected to say:

“If we believe the media, it’s only young glamorous women who get harassed. But it’s not just actors and models who suffer. It’s also the cleaner, school secretary, healthcare assistant, call centre worker or finance officer.

“They feel they have to put up with the unwanted touching or personal remarks because they’re worried about their job and making a complaint would affect their future.

“Workplaces should be harassment-free zones. There must be tougher policies, a clearer understanding of what harassment is, and a zero-tolerance approach.”

Notes to editors:
– The 2019 women’s conference takes place between 14 and 16 February at the Bournemouth International Centre, Exeter Road, Bournemouth BH2 5BH.
– Motions include campaigning for safety within the social care workforce, supporting young women to challenge workplace sexual harassment and protecting, extending and enforcing disabled women’s rights.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

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