Sex pests be­ing ig­nored

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

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.

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