Sexual harassment isn’t just a problem for celebrities. It’s rife in ordinary workplaces everywhere. It affects us too.

Sexual harassment can have devastating effects, often leading to ill-health and work-related stress, affecting work performance and a survivor’s personal life.

Half of women have been sexually harassed at work. Two thirds of LGBT+ people have experienced it too. And what’s really shocking is that 4 out of 5 people don’t feel able to report it to their employer.

So after months of campaigning, we welcome the government’s recent announcement that it finally plans to change the law and introduce a mandatory duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, including third-party harassment. 

It’s an important victory for UNISON and the whole coalition of unions, women’s rights bodies and business organisations working together in the #ThisIsNotWorking alliance. But most importantly, for UNISON members delivering public services, this represents a positive practical step towards stamping out harassment at work from clients, patients and contractors as well as from colleagues. 

The government has stated that it will introduce legislation “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. For workers who continue to suffer, and who currently feel that nothing will be done if they report harassment, it’s action, not words, that will make a difference. 

UNISON will keep a close eye on the government and press for it to introduce a properly enforceable law so that all employers make prevention a priority and are held severely to account when they let their workers down. We will be watching – and we stand ready to act if we don’t see the urgent change we need.

What to do if you are being sexually harassed at work

  • Speak to a trusted friend or family member.
  • Speak to your UNISON rep.
  • Keep a record of what has happened to you (including time, date, location and any witnesses or evidence such as copies of letters, text messages, emails, etc, as well as details of any medical help sought).
  • If you feel sufficiently safe, tell the harasser to stop. You could ask them in writing. Your UNISON rep should be able to support you. Keep a record of any steps you have taken to stop the sexual harassment and of any response from the harasser.
  • Speak to your line manager or, if they are the harasser, to a more senior manager or to the HR department.
  • If the problem is not resolved, make a formal complaint using your workplace grievance procedure or the reporting procedure within your workplace anti-harassment policy (if there is one). Your UNISON rep should be able to support you.
  • If the issue is still not resolved, you may be able to take it to an employment tribunal. Your UNISON rep should be able to support you. You can also contact There for You on 020 7121 5620, email thereforyou@unison.co.uk or speak to your branch welfare officer.

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