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Not part of the job

Young workers’ experiences of third-party harassment: polling and survey findings
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Our recommendations


The government can act to enshrine protection for workers from third-parties in law and improve the rights of young workers at work.

  • Strengthen legislation to tackle third-party harassment. Employers currently have a duty of care for all workers, however it is not always clear to employers or employees what this means. Reinstating and strengthening Section 40 of the Equality Act would ensure clear and comprehensive legal protection against third-party harassment on the grounds of a protected characteristic, such as sexual harassment.
  • Statutory employment rights for workers. All workers should get employee rights from day one of the job. Bosses have the power to fire some workers who make a complaint about harassment if the worker doesn’t have a contract with guaranteed hours. Not all workers know about the employer’s duty of care or the Equality Act, and so those in insecure work are less likely to report incidences of harassment.
  • Strengthen the role of enforcement bodies. There is a clear need for greater enforcement activity by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Health and Safety Executive, and the police. The government should ensure these organisations coordinate a proactive response to workplace harassment and are provided with the necessary resources to do this.


The survey showed a worrying indifference – and sometimes hostility - from employers about the impact that harassment, abuse and violence can have on workers.

  • Strengthen harassment prevention policies. Employers have a legal duty to protect workers from all forms of harassment at work. Employers should act to prevent harassment from occurring, such as carrying out risk assessments for lone working, night working, travelling to and from work and workers opening or closing work premises.
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of harassment, abuse and violence. This should apply to everyone in the workplace, such as colleagues and managers, as well as third-parties. Statements about not tolerating harassment should be visibly displayed, using clear language, so third-parties can understand what action the employer will take if they breach it. Policies and procedures should be clearly communicated to staff, including an explanation of their rights under the law, and monitored regularly for effectiveness.
  • Provide comprehensive training for all managers and supervisors to ensure proper support for staff. It was clear from the survey that many managers and supervisors did not deal with reports of harassment, abuse or violence from third-parties appropriately. As a bare minimum, reports of harassment, abuse or violence must be taken seriously, and employers should be accountable for following the policies and procedures to prevent it in the future.
  • Work in partnership with unions to agree policies, procedures and training. Unions are an appropriate mechanism for employers to ensure robust implementation of new policies and training, gauge staff satisfaction and monitor and measure the effectiveness of any changes.

Trade unions

The survey found a low reporting rate of harassment, abuse and violence to trade unions. Unions can negotiate better policies and support members to resolve ongoing issues.

  • Run workplace campaigns and organising. Trade unions should publicise the support they can offer in all cases of harassment, abuse and violence and proactively target recruitment and organising activities at young workers.
  • Negotiate robust workplace policies. Any policy that aims to tackle harassment, abuse or violence should clearly define the behaviours, and recognise the employer’s duty to prevent and/or deal with any harassment from third-parties. Unions may want to collect anonymised information about members’ experiences of third-party harassment, abuse or violence to help strengthen negotiations with an employer.
  • Training for reps. All workers have a role to play in ensuring workplaces are safe places to work. Dealing with any form of harassment – not just from third-parties – is an important part of a reps training. Unions should ensure that reps are up to date with relevant training to ensure unions can sufficiently support members.
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