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Violence against women and sexual harassment in the workplace

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The recent, shocking cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa have once again put concerning levels of violence against women into the spotlight.

Sadly, although shocking, their cases aren’t unique.  

The figures speak for themselves:

  • One in five women have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16
  • Approximately 85,000 women are raped, and over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year
  • In the year to March 2020, 207 women were killed in Great Britain.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is closely linked to instances of violence against women.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, which:

  • Violates your dignity
  • Makes you feel intimidated, degraded, or humiliated
  • Creates a hostile or offensive environment.

It can include:

  • Sexual comments or jokes
  • Physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching, and sexual assault
  • Displaying pictures, photos, or drawings of a sexual nature
  • Sending emails with sexual content

Under the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been prohibited by law for decades, and yet it continues. And, as more people, predominately women, are feeling empowered to share their experiences, the worrying scale of the problem is becoming increasingly clear.

TUC/Everyday Sexism research found that 52% of women had experienced sexual harassment at work. Of the one in five of these who had reported it, three-quarters said that nothing had changed as a result. More worryingly still, 16% said that they were treated worse as a result of reporting the harassment.

The government carried out a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace, including both a technical consultation and a public questionnaire. As a result of the findings, the government plans to introduce a duty requiring employers to prevent sexual harassment – they believe this will encourage employers to take positive, proactive steps to make the workplace safer.

In addition to this, they will extend the protections of the Equality Act to cover all volunteers and interns, and also extend the time limits for those bringing sexual harassment cases from 3 months to 6.

Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace

We should all be able to live and work without fear of violence or harassment. And all employers have a duty of care to protect their workers and could be deemed legally liable for sexual harassment in the workplace if they do not take reasonable steps to prevent it.

Employers must aim to create a culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and:

  • Offer support to anyone involved in a sexual harassment complaint
  • Make it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated
  • Train all employees on recognising and reporting sexual harassment

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also produced a guide for employers on preventing sexual harassment at work.

How can TRS Training help?

TRS Training has a duty to safeguard its apprentices. If you are an apprentice who has experienced or is currently experiencing harassment, please get in touch with your TRS trainer immediately. You can also report a concern via our dedicated confidential website form. Our safeguarding officer will be in contact with you within 24 hours.

Similarly, if you are an employer or a family member with a concern about a TRS apprentice, you can use the same form to access prompt support.

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