Young Women's Trust respond to EHRC guidance on workplace harassment

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust said:

YWT LOGO“We welcome the new EHRC guidance for employers released today on sexual harassment, and hope to see this quickly become statutory code and a stronger legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces.

Experiences of sexism, including sexual harassment, have a devastating impact on young women’s mental health and their ability to access and stay in paid work. Our research with UCL found that young women aged 16-30 who experience sexism are over five times more likely to have clinical depression. And for those who experience sexual harassment, a quarter would be reluctant to report this to an employer for fear of being fired. TUC found that 63 percent of young women have experienced sexual harassment compared to an average of 52 percent among women of all ages.

If society is to benefit from the wealth of skills and knowledge young women have to offer, then employers need to take responsibility for creating respectful workplaces with zero tolerance towards sexism and sexual harassment. The burden should not sit with victims of sexual harassment to come forward, go through lengthy processes and re-traumatising questioning, often not to be believed.

The Equality Act 2010 needs an overhaul in regards to sexual harassment. As well as a legal preventative duty, we also call for section 40 of the Equality Act to be reinstated to make employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party; for a legal duty to be placed on employers and organisations to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment, and to extend the three-month time limit for employees to bring tribunal cases under the Equality Act to at least six months.