Joint letter to Business Secretary calls for ministers to “come clean” over whether they will allow Worker Protection Bill to fall
Unions and women’s groups have today (Tuesday) warned the government not to abandon essential legislation on workplace sexual harassment.
According to multiple reports ministers will allow the Worker Protection Bill to fall following objections from Conservative backbenchers.
The Bill would introduce a legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to protect staff from third party harassment by clients and customers.
In a joint letter to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, campaigners – including the TUC, Fawcett Society, Amnesty International, Times Up UK, Pregnant Then Screwed, and a number of trade unions – warn that sexual harassment is “endemic” in the workplace:
“We know that half of working women will experience workplace sexual harassment. It is even higher for LGBT+, disabled, and Black women but these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg as 79% of women do not report their experiences.
“Third party harassment is extensive. 56% of women working in the hospitality industry have experienced sexual harassment as have three in five nurses while carrying out their work.
“From the Presidents Club scandal to more recent allegations emerging from the CBI we know that sexual harassment is endemic and must be addressed.”
Highlighting the need for new laws, the campaigners say:
“It has been clear for many years that reforms are needed to protect working women from sexual harassment.
“Reform is essential to protect women in the workplace and to drive the culture change necessary to tackle violence against women as well as other forms of discrimination. The reforms will mean that employers must take sexual harassment seriously and take preventative measures to protect workers rather than wait for an incident to occur.”
In the letter to Kemi Badenoch the campaigners call on the government to guarantee the Bill and its new legal protections enter into law in this session of Parliament.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “As this letter makes clear – sexual harassment is happening on an industrial scale in workplaces across Britain.
“The time for excuses is over. We urgently need to strengthen protections to protect workers.
“The government must come clean about its plans. Will it support this much-needed legislation and help keep women and workers safe from harassment? Or will it cave into the demands from its backbenchers.”
Fawcett Society Chief Executive Jemima Olchawski said: “We need to see a serious commitment from this government to better protect women at work.
“It's nothing short of scandalous that some Tory Peers have sought to play politics with a bill which would offer the first significant increase in protections for women since the #metoo movement.
“Women deserve and demand better. It's time for this government to deliver.”
The full letter reads:
Worker Protection Bill
We are writing to you to raise our concerns that the government backed Worker Protection Bill, being brought forward by Wera Hobhouse MP as a private members bill, is likely to fall despite receiving initial support from the government.
We know that half of working women will experience workplace sexual harassment. It is even higher for LGBT+, disabled, and Black women but these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg as 79% of women do not report their experiences.
Third party harassment is extensive. 56% of women working in the hospitality industry have experienced sexual harassment as have three in five nurses while carrying out their work. From the Presidents Club scandal to more recent allegations emerging from the CBI we know that sexual harassment is endemic and must be addressed.
It has been clear for many years that reforms are needed to protect working women from sexual harassment. Reform is essential to protect women in the workplace and to drive the culture change necessary to tackle violence against women as well as other forms of discrimination. The reforms will mean that employers must take sexual harassment seriously and take preventative measures to protect workers rather than wait for an incident to occur.
Following the full consultation undertaken by the government equalities office in 2019, we welcomed the governments promise to introduce a preventative duty and reintroduce third party protections in its consultation response in July 2021. The government’s commitment to these reforms was reinforced when it ratified the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention 190 and in its support to date of the Worker Protection Bill.
We are deeply concerned that despite the government’s initial commitment to these reforms, there have been repeated attempts to undermine the bill as it passes through the House of Lords. There are reports that the bill no longer has the support of government. We call on the government to prioritise the bill and ensure that its protections enter into law in this session of parliament.
We would appreciate answers to the following questions:
Is government is still committed to introducing a preventative duty and protections from third party harassment as set out in its Consultation response and in line with its obligations under ILO C190?
If the government is intending to proceed with the bill, can you commit to ensuring that enough time is made in the Parliamentary calendar to pass in this session?
We look forward to hearing from you,
Paul Nowak, General Secretary, TUC
Jemima Olchawski, CEO, Fawcett Society
Deeba Syed, Senior Legal Officer, Rights of Women
Chaira Capraro, Women’s Rights Programme Director, Amnesty International
Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group
Claire Reindorp, CEO, Young Women’s Trust
Joeli Brearley, Founder, Pregnant Then Screwed
Priya Sahni-Nicholas and Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Directors, The Equality Trust
Times Up UK
Our Streets Now
Zelda Perkins, Co-Founder, Can’t Buy My Silence
Frances Holmes, Speak Out Revolution
Anna Whitehouse, Founder, MotherPukka
Saskia Garner, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Dr Wanda Wyporska, Chief Executive, Black Equity Organisation
Shavanah Taj, General Secretary, Wales TUC
Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON
Alison Spencer-Scragg, UNITE National Officer for Women
Dr Mary Bousted Joint General Secretary, NEU
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, NEU
Mick Lynch, General Secretary, RMT
Naomi Pohl, General Secretary, Musicians Union
Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary, UCU
Dave Penman, General Secretary, FDA
Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary, Prospect
Jennifer Dean, Head of Equalities, Community
Claire Sullivan, Director of Employment Relations and Union Services, CSP
Annette Mansell-Green, Director of Trade Union Services and Public Affairs, BDA
- Write to your MP: To highlight the importance of these much needed changes Fawcett has organised a campaign calling on the public to write to their MP asking for them to support the Bill. More information can be found here.
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