Equally Safe at Work: New learning and development resources to address sexual harassment at work

High levels of sexual harassment remain consistent in the workplace, which has a detrimental impact on women, colleagues and the entire organisation. In our Equally Safe at Work employee survey in early adopter councils, three-quarters (75%) of respondents had either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the last 12 months and 70% didn’t report it to their employer. We know that women rarely report sexual harassment, and violence against women in general. This is because some think nothing will change, or that they won’t be believed. In some cases, women worry it will affect their career progression. As well, women have shared that they tried to report to their line manager, and received little to no support to make a formal report to HR.

Sexual harassment has serious physical, psychological and professional impacts for women, leading to many taking time off work, changing jobs or leaving the organisation. This is costly both to women’s careers and to employers as they lose key people. It harms women’s employment prospects, and as such is both a cause and consequence of women’s wider inequality.

It’s essential that employers take steps to address sexual harassment in their workplace. From previous scoping work undertaken, by Close the Gap, it was apparent that there was a gap in existing learning and development resources on sexual harassment that recognised it as a gendered phenomenon. Without addressing the underlying power dynamics and gender inequality inherent to sexual harassment, little change will be made in challenging it.

What we did

As part of Equally Safe at Work, Close the Gap developed a learning and development resource for employers to increase awareness and understanding of sexual harassment in different staff groups. The development of the resource was funded by Rosa and includes:

  • key messages for all employees,
  • guidance for line managers,
  • e-learning modules for line managers,
  • awareness-raising material, and
  • an expert workshop for staff involved in investigating sexual harassment.

The resource aims to provide organisations with essential information on sexual harassment including, what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace and what employees can do to address sexual harassment and prevent it. It further provides employers with tools for engaging with different audiences, such as the key messages and awareness-raising material.

Line managers have an important role in tackling sexual harassment. Equipping line managers with the knowledge and understanding of how best to address sexual harassment is key for building trust in the reporting process and for creating a positive workplace culture. Our guidance provides information on the factors that facilitate sexual harassment which include gender stereotyping, everyday sexism and male-oriented workplace culture. It also outlines how to recognise the signs an employee may be experiencing sexual harassment, such as changes to the work performances or changes in behaviour. The guidance also includes ways to start a conversations and steps to take when responding to a disclosure.

For more information, you can visit the Equally Safe at Work website.

We have also developed a self-assessment tool for SMEs on sexual harassment. More information about the tool and the supporting guidance can be found here.

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