The PeopleAlchemist Edit: change & transformation, business & lifestyle experimentation for TheWomanAlchemist
The #MeToo movement put sexual harassment on top of the news agenda following allegations of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry where prominent figures were involved.
The scandal brought to light the depth and breadth of the issue in this industry. And everywhere else, for that matter.
But what has actually happened since then? It was 2017, after all …
THE (BRIEF) STORY SO FAR POST #METOO
On 5 March 2020, the European Commission adopted its Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. The strategy from President von der Leyen’s commitment to a Union of Equality sets out an ambitious framework. How to advance gender equality in Europe and beyond. It is based on a vision for a Europe where women and men are free from violence and stereotypes. And have an opportunity to thrive and to lead.
In the United States, several states have passed legislation aimed at combatting workplace sexual harassment. These legislative measures vary from banning non-disclosure provisions to mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration agreements. From requiring employers to provide anti-harassment training and to distribute anti-harassment policies and information.
In the UK, the Women and Equalities Select Committee published its report on sexual harassment in the workplace in July 2018. The report called for significant changes in the law.
The UK Government then launched its own consultation in July 2019. This ended in October 2019. The response has, finally, been published on 21 July 2021. And about time too, I say.
THE UK GOVERNMENT COMMITMENTS
Introduce a new statutory code of practice with guidance
Currently, in claims of sexual harassment, employers can use as a defence that they took “all reasonable steps” to prevent the occurrence. However, in the consultation, it was discussed introducing a new duty. This duty requires employers to take a more proactive approach to protect workers.
The Government has also committed to introducing a new statutory code of practice. With guidance for employers to take positive steps for compliance. This new duty would be implemented “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.
Surprise surprise, no timeline as yet.
Provisions for harassment by a Third-party
Currently, an employee cannot claim in respect of Third-Party harassment. Third-Party harassment is harassment by a client or customer. This was repealed in 2013. The commitment here is to introduce provisions relating to it. Again though, when parliamentary time allows. Meaning no date set.
Time limits extension for sexual harassment cases
The present time limit for presenting claims under the Equality act 2010 is three months. From the date of the complaint. The Government did not determine on this subject. However, it concluded that it would look at this “closely”. But added that if the time limit is extended, it would be for ALL claims under the Equality Act 2010. Not just sexual harassment.
Albeit there seem to be some positive steps in the right direction reality is sexual harassment has lost its high profile lately. It has not been at the forefront of the UK Government agenda. I mean, two years since consultation began doesn’t exactly scream priority. The UK Government has not set precise time commitments either. Words like “The new duty will be introduced “as soon as” parliamentary time allows, or “when” parliamentary time allows come to mind. And it has also been vague regarding extending time limits under the Equality Act 2010. It is considering but may not do so at all.
I suspect that, as there haven’t been any scandals in the news involving high profile/famous people, it has slipped everywhere else too. Why do always need a scandal to start taking action? What happened when the scandal subsides?
It is time to take a real stand. No more hashtags. No more movement but a severe and zero-tolerance approach to ANY indications of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.
It is not, never has and never will be ok.