Sex pests being ignored
EMPLOYERS and regulatory bodies are failing to combat sexual harassment in the workplace because they still do not take the issue seriously enough, according to the Women and Equalities Committee.
It called for the Government to “step in to force these bodies to take sexual harassment seriously”.
Maria Miller MP, chair of the committee, said while the issue remains a focus of debate in society following the Time’s Up and MeToo movements, the impact on organisations in charge of oversight or inspection has been mixed.
The committee wrote to 10 regulatory and inspection bodies in sectors including healthcare, law, education and financial services, asking them to explain what they were doing to tackle the problem.
Ms Miller said the committee was “particularly disappointed” at how few of the bodies understood their responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty to eliminate sexual harassment.
They were “astonished” to find that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not see tackling workplace sexual harassment “as part of its remit”.
Similarly “striking” was the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) apparent failure to include the problem in any of its annual reports over the last decade since being established in 2007.
Legal director, Elizabeth Prochaska, conceded the body had been “caught off guard” by the viral movements and had been “focusing on other issues”.
The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) was asked whether it had assessed how many unreported cases there might be in the profession after just 23 reports of sexual misconduct had been made since November 2015.
But chief executive Paul Philip replied that it was “very difficult” to do that as they would ultimately need the women themselves to come forward.
Ofsted stated that sexual harassment formed part of its inspection framework, but said specific information about the scale of it would only be sought “if it came up”, which it rarely does.
Megan Butler, from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), estimated that “only nine or so” out of 1,500 whistleblowing complaints lodged over the last couple of years related to sexual harassment.