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Having the confidence to report sexual harassment in the workplace

Sinead Bunting

Prominent movements against sexual harassment, including #MeToo and Time’s Up, have given over a quarter of UK workers the confidence to report sexual harassment they see or experience in the workplace, according to new research. Contributor Sinead Bunting, VP – Marketing at

While the research unearthed the positive impact the movements have had, it also highlighted the extent of gender discrimination and sexual harassment still taking place in workplaces across the country. Over a third (31 percent) of UK workers said they had either experienced or witnessed gender inequality in the workplace in the past twelve months; this was more prevalent in women, with a quarter saying that they had experienced it themselves, compared to 9 percent of men. Younger generations were also more likely to say they have either experienced or witnessed it, than those aged over 35.

Worryingly, the research also found that over a quarter (21 percent) of UK employees have directly experienced, or witnessed, sexual harassment in the workplace. With 18 percent of women reporting they have experienced harassment directly in the last year. data also saw an 18 percent uplift in men reporting sexual harassment in the last twelve months.

The research also showed only 44 percent of Brits believe that men and women have an equal chance of being hired for the same role, even if they have the same qualifications and experience. Women are more likely to feel there is lack of equality in the workplace, with only a third (35 percent) believing they have an equal chance of securing a job; compared to 55 percent of men. 41 percent of employees still feel that women need to work harder to get a promotion. Demonstrating that attitudes are changing, those aged 35 and under feel more confident that they have an equal chance in the workplace regardless of their gender.

Organisations play a fundamental role in creating gender parity in the workplace. When asked, 69 percent of HR professionals said they do have policies in place to guarantee equality between men and women when hiring, a 7 percent increase since 2016. However, 28 percent feel that their organisations’ policies need to be updated to encourage further gender equality in the workplace. Alarmingly, a further 25 percent admit that the policies they do have in place aren’t always followed during the recruitment process.

VP of Marketing Europe at Monster, Sinead Bunting says, “#MeToo and Time’s Up have clearly had a profound impact and raised awareness of sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace. It’s refreshing to see these issues being talked about openly in offices and to see more of us feeling confident to stand up for what is right – but there is still a lot more to be done.

“HR and business leaders have the ability to help shift attitudes and create equal playing fields and safe spaces where concerns can be heard. Companies need to empower their workers to come forward if they see something they don’t believe is right, and give them the confidence that any issues reported will be handled sensitively and treated seriously.”

 What can I do if I’m asked uncomfortable questions in an interview?
“It’s illegal for employers to ask your age, ethnicity or date of birth in an interview. Likewise your marital status, children or plans for children and sexual status should not come up. They should not be judging on your age but on your aptitude and skills for the job. If one of these questions is asked, the law is on your side.

“Be reasonable but firm in saying you politely decline to answer that question. If you do feel you were unfairly questioned and this may have impacted your chances you should seek advice from the Equal Opportunities Commission.”

What can I do if I’m being harassed in the workplace?
“Firstly, it is important to remember that harassment can come in many forms, and one of the most difficult steps is often admitting it is happening to you. Harassment is unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

“If you feel safe, you should tell the person harassing you that you’re uncomfortable and ask them to stop. Tell your HR department what’s going on too. However, if these individuals are part of the problem you’ll need to seek outside help. Citizens Advice offers online resources plus phone and face-to-face appointments to help you address harassment, and the Equality Advisory and Support Services can point you towards groups that support victims of harassment.

“Whatever you do, put everything in writing. Collect evidence – keep a diary recording all the times this has occurred. Your employer has a legal, ethical, and employee relations obligation to investigate the charges. In fact, if an employer hears rumours that harassment is occurring, the employer must investigate the potential harassment. If the harassment is sexual in nature and becomes physical without your consent you should report to the police as well as internal avenues.”

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