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Equal Opportunities Commission: Sexual harassment is no joke

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Sexual harassment, far from being a joke, can result in long term consequences for those who suffer as a result, says the Equal Opportunities Commission.

An EOC analysis of employment tribunal cases over the last three years reveals that ninety per cent of those whose claims for harassment were successful had lost their job or resigned as a result. Many people also suffer health problems, a drop in confidence and a drop in performance at work, without bringing a formal complaint about the harassment they encounter because they either feel there is no-one to complain to, are too embarrassed to say anything or – rightly, if the tribunal analysis is correct – fear it will affect their career prospects. Those who had not made Employment tribunals were more likely to dismiss cases where the employee had not made a formal complaint to their employer, or they failed to file a claim within the three-month time limit.

Jenny Watson, Deputy Chair of the EOC said: “Many of the people we talk to have put up with harassment for months or even years before contacting the EOC.” The EOC says previous research has estimated that over half of women workers and nearly ten per cent of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.

In an attempt to get the issue of sexual harassment into the open, the EOC have launched an online advice line (at www.eoc.org.uk/advice/sh ) and accompanying leaflet for individuals, entitled “What would you do if your boss asked you for a blow job?”, together with a best practice guide for employers.

The EOC recommends that employers:

  • Adopt a clear policy that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace
  • Spell out what kinds of behaviour is unacceptable
  • Make sure victims know how to raise concerns and feel confident in doing so
  • Investigate problems and take firm action to stamp out harassment when it occurs

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