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Tackling and preventing sexual harassment

An update from the TUC Executive Committee working group
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date

Everyday people across the UK are sexually harassed at work, most do not report. Anyone can experience sexual harassment, but we know that overwhelmingly it is women who are harassed, and this can be compounded by other forms of discrimination. Our research has shown the devastating impact that sexual harassment has on victim-survivors, with many forced to live in fear of repercussions and forced out of the workplace, and the long-term impact that the resulting trauma can have on their physical and mental wellbeing, their lives, and professional and personal relationships.  

Trade unions do not accept that sexual harassment or the cultures that enable it are acceptable or inevitable.  

And we must lead by example, sexual harassment and the cultures of misogyny, sexism and discrimination that enable it do not belong in any workplace, including our own. Our own staff and activists must be safe, treated equally and with respect in trade union workplaces and spaces. It is vital that we uphold decent standards of behaviour - there must be no tolerance of sexual harassment,    

As in every other workspace, the trade union movement, has work to do if we are to uphold our values of safety, equality, and dignity for everyone.  

The TUC General Council established the Executive Committee working group in March 2021 and over the last 18 months it has worked together to provide advice, resources, training, and support for what needs to be done as part of our journey to preventing sexual harassment in all workplaces starting with unions as employers.  

This report is the result of the collective experience and endeavour of union leaders who participated in the working group and who have taken part in leadership training. 

It sets out more detail on:  

  • the background of the working group  
  • the work carried out to date 
  • the results of our first of its kind survey of unions  
  • principles and practical actions for effectively tackling, responding to, and preventing sexual harassment, and  
  • recommendations beyond congress.  

The strength of our movement lies in our solidarity, diversity, and inclusivity - tackling and preventing sexual harassment is a priority for our movement. It is essential that, together, we show leadership by taking the necessary steps to deliver the cultural change demanded by women both in our movement and wider society. 

Sue Ferns, TUC President, on behalf of the Executive Committee working group 


I am proud of the work trade unions have done to highlight the scale and impact of sexual harassment in the workplace and the campaigns we have led to change the law, laying the foundations for the culture change that is needed if we are to end sexual harassment and the cultures that allow it to thrive. But like every workplace, we need to get our own house in order. No one should ever feel unsafe in a trade union space.  

In setting out the work done so far by the working group, we are clear that we must work collectively to address sexism and misogyny, that we must recognise how sexual harassment can be compounded and intersect with other forms of discrimination and harassment, and that we must take active practical steps to drive culture change and tackle sexual harassment. This report is our commitment to change. There is no quick or easy fix, but collectively we must continue to reflect on our movement and act to ensure we meet the high standards and values that we as trade unionists hold ourselves to.  

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary 

EC Working Group members 

Sue Ferns (Chair), Prospect and TUC President 2021-22 

Annette Mansell-Green (Vice-Chair), BDA and chair of TUC Women’s Committee 

Gloria Mills, UNISON 

Barbara Plant, GMB 

Maria Exall, CWU 

Simon Weller, ASLEF 

Steve Gillan, POA 

Matt Wrack, FBU 

Mark Dickinson, Nautilus 

Frances O'Grady, TUC 

Both Michelle Stanistreet (NUJ) and Gail Cartmail (UNITE) sat on the working group between March and October 2021, with Gail acting as chair during her time as TUC President 


Trade unions have been at the forefront of researching the scale and impact of sexual harassment in the workplace and campaigning to change the law to strengthen workers protections and build the foundations for the culture change that is needed to stop sexual harassment once and for all.  

Our ground-breaking 2016 research report ‘Still Just a bit of banter’ highlighted the scale and impact of sexual harassment on women in the workplace.  

  • One in two women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. 
  • Four out of five do not report to their employer, often because of the well-founded fear of reprisal and further victimisation.  

This report was followed by more ground-breaking research into the experiences of Black workers (2017), young workers (2017), LGBT+ workers (2019), and disabled women workers (2021).  

  • BME women face double discrimination through racism and sexism. 37 per cent of BME women state race and gender as the reason for experiencing verbal abuse. 
  • Seven in ten LGBT+ workers and disabled women workers have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment at work. 
  • Nearly a third of young workers have experienced sexual harassment, often from third parties.  

Again, most do not report.  

In the wake of our research, the work affiliates were doing to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace, and increased awareness of the #metoo movement in 2017 internationally, trade unions said enough is enough. Every woman, every worker should be safe at work, including trade union workers.  

Recognising the importance of tackling and preventing sexual harassment within our movement, in 2018 the TUC General Council reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating all forms of sexual harassment and violence against women, including three specifics actions for affiliated unions as employers: 

  • “Ensure that all unions have effective policies on sexual harassment in place and communicated to all staff and reps, as both employers and as democratic membership organisations 
  • Ensure all unions have fair and effective procedures in place to deal with complaints, which recognise the value of including an independent expert presence 
  • Implement sexual harassment policies in union branches or other relevant structures.” 

The TUC rules were updated to reflect this renewed focus on ending sexual harassment within our movement. The TUC rules are explicit and robust in stating our shared commitment to the elimination all forms of sexual harassment and violence against women within our movement. Rule 1b states: 

  • “It shall be a requirement of affiliation that an organisation has a clear commitment to promote equality for all and to eliminate all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination, both within its own structures and through all its activities, including its own employment practices.” 

As the rules make clear, sexism is not a women’s issue. All of us must make an active commitment to prevent and stop sexual harassment.  

In 2019 we brought together over 30 organisations under the umbrella of the #Thisisnotworking alliance to campaign for the introduction of a new duty on employers to take active steps to prevent sexual harassment, shifting the burden away from victim-survivors and onto employers. Demanding they proactively build safe environments for their workers, including re-introducing protections from third party harassment.  

And we won. In July 2021 the Government committed to introducing the duty, and ratified ILO Convention C190, the first international convention that commits governments to creating an environment where workers can work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence. Another victory for trade unions who had campaigned for its ratification.  

As trade unions we must lead by example. There is no place for sexual harassment or the cultures that enable it in any workplace, including our own. Women make up nearly 60 per cent of our membership, they and all trade union staff must be safe and equal in our spaces, this is our legal and moral duty.  

In March 2021 the TUC General Council established an executive working group to support the TUC and our affiliated unions in progressing action to prevent, tackle and effectively respond to the sexual harassment of workers within our organisations and drive culture change within our movement.  

The working group has three aims: 

  • Support union leaders to deliver meaningful cultural change that creates safe and inclusive working environment free from harassment for trade union employees 
  • Ensure unions have robust internal policies and procedures to prevent and respond to sexual harassment within their organisations. 
  • Ensure cultural change is part of a broader endeavor to address the underrepresentation of women and minoritized groups within the trade union movement; identifying and tackling power imbalances; increasing women’s agency and power within union workplaces and the wider movement; and addressing inequality.  

The Executive Committee (EC) working group has taken the following action:  

  • Conducted a first of its kind survey of unions to identify key challenges and examples of good practice and progress,  
  • shared legal advice and resources to help the movement to advance this work,  
  • developed opportunities for training for the senior leadership within our movement, and  
  • launched a pilot training programme.  

The training is aimed at building the capacity of the movement to deliver effective culture change training and practical steps that can be taken to tackle, respond to, and prevent sexual harassment within our union workplaces and spaces.   

The remainder of this report sets out the work that the EC working group and the TUC have progressed over the last 18 months; an overview of the results of our unions as employers survey and the equality audit regarding tackling, responding to, and preventing sexual harassment with examples of progress and good practice shared with us by affiliates; and recommendations for next steps beyond Congress.  

The EC working group will report on our work to date at Congress. But it is important that the work does not stop there. There is no quick or easy fix to deliver the cultural change that is needed. The resources and work delivered so far, as well as the outcomes of the survey and equality audit, highlight that there is still more to do to deliver the meaningful and lasting change needed.  

The work so far 

The TUC Executive Committee sexual harassment working group has worked to drive action to ensure progress to prevent, tackle and effectively respond to the sexual harassment of workers within our organisations and drive culture change within our movement. This includes: 

  • legal guidance 
  • tackling and preventing sexual harassment resources 
  • leadership training 
  • development of pilot training scheme for unions 
  • TU Education reps webinar and sessions for affiliates 
  • survey of unions as employers  

Legal guidance 

The guidance is designed to help unions understand what the current legislation and case law means for unions and what more unions must do to comply with the requirements of the preventative duty.  

Tackling and preventing sexual harassment resources 

A suite of resources for unions as employers as well as guidance for workplace reps has been developed. The toolkit includes: 

  • a template climate survey 
  • a template risk assessment 
  • an example workplace policy 
  • an implementation framework 

This framework sets out five practical actions leaders can take to tackle, respond to, and prevent sexual harassment.  

A link to the trade union representative’s toolkit can be found here. All general secretaries have received a copy of the unions as employers’ toolkit. Whilst these resources were developed primarily for unions as employers they can also be adapted for use with lay structures and members.  

Box 1 – Five practical steps

Engaging staff and understanding your organisation through an anonymous climate survey.

As we know an absence of reports of sexual harassment do not mean sexual harassment is not happening within a workplace. By engaging in an anonymous climate survey, affiliates will get a clearer understanding of understanding incidences of sexual harassment, sexism and to what extent there is a workplace culture that tolerates it. It is also part of a participatory and transparent approach to understanding the culture within your union.

Assess and take steps to reduce risk through a workplace risk assessment.

Taking a risk-based approach and identifying specific risk factors that could enable or increase the risk of sexual harassment is essential. Taken alongside the anonymous climate survey, the risk assessment can help to identify key challenges and areas of risk and help with prioritising action to minimise them. Risk assessments may also need to be done for specific events such as conferences, demos, and picket lines.

Develop and implement an effective anti-sexual harassment policy.

Policies should consider findings from the climate survey and risk assessment, include clear definitions of the law of what sexual harassment is, and set out scenarios. This will serve to support understanding, signposting for safe reporting routes, the specific processes for receiving and responding to reports of sexual harassment, as well as what steps will be taken to remedy or prevent harassment from occurring again. Unions Policies should have a zero-tolerance of sexual harassment. and this message should be communicated clearly and frequently. This means all policy and processes should be applied consistently when dealing with all reports of sexual harassment.

Implement training that responds to the organisational context.

Training is vital to develop understanding and reinforce values and principles, as well as offering practical support on how to tackle, respond to and prevent sexual harassment. The TUC is working to develop a pilot training programme and has extended existing training offers – this is discussed in more detail below. However, all unions should look at their own training needs, and identify how they will deliver training and what support is needed. 

Monitor and evaluate progress

Monitoring and evaluating progress are key to understanding how effective the policies and processes put in place are. It also signals commitment to ongoing work, which can help to build trust and transparency. Regular climate surveys, as well as exit interviews and creating safe spaces for discussion of progress will all help advance culture change.

Leadership training 

As culture change starts from the top of an organisation we prioritised offering dedicated training for union leaders. Senior leaders are responsible for leading the necessary change needed to tackle and prevent sexual harassment. Leaders are instrumental in setting the climate that does not tolerate sexual harassment. The training is values-led, inclusive and positive. It empowers leaders to take action to build and mainstream preventative approaches to sexual harassment.  

The training focuses on: 

  • The role of leaders in tackling cultures supportive of sexual harassment. 
  • Building a knowledge base: legal and theoretical definitions of sexual harassment in the workplace - how sexual harassment is related to power and to violence against women, through an intersectional lens.  
  • Developing understanding: thinking about barriers to reporting; looking at the psychology of perpetrators and those subjected to sexual harassment; concepts of ‘justice’; the collegiate workplace and victim-blaming; how do we change workplace cultures.  
  • Practical leadership skills, actions, and practices: thinking about handling disclosures, climate surveys, data, policy, and procedures.    

To date seven sessions have been delivered, with a further session planned in October 2022. General secretaries from 22 affiliates and 30 Executive and General Council members have completed the training. We have also enabled 6 HR, employment and equality leads who are responsible for work around tackling and preventing sexual harassment within their union to participate in the training.  

Feedback has been positive with participants stating that the training helped to improve their knowledge and understanding of the environment, practices, processes, and behaviours that facilitate sexual harassment as well as concepts such as institutional betrayal and ‘himpathy’, and that this will support developing a clear and strategic approach and practical actions to effectively tackling, responding to, and preventing sexual harassment within their unions.  

Train the trainers pilot training programme 

We are developing a pilot training programme to build and scale up our capacity to embed the principles and foundations for culture change within our movement.  

Training needs to be of high quality, rooted in:  

  • understanding sexism, misogyny, and other forms of discrimination 
  • how they manifest.  
  • embedding an understanding of the structures and complexities of the trade union movement. 

The project has recruited activists and tutors to:  

  • be trained in how to deliver preventative culture training to the movement.   
  • Be able to train others in how to deliver this training. 

The pilot will be independently evaluated over 18 months so we can: 

  • understand the impact of the training  
  • learn from the process 
  • determine how it can be evolved.  

15 trainers have been recruited for the pilot from over 150 applications. Applications were received from throughout our movement (tutors, lay members and activists, and officials), demonstrating that tackling sexual harassment continues to be a priority for our movement, and that we can build on a wealth of experience and commitment to drive this work forward.  

Initial training has been scheduled for autumn 2022.  Following this, the trainers will deliver pilot sessions until spring 2023. From then on, the trainers will be available to run programmes. Details for booking these trainers will be shared once these initial stages have been completed.   

Webinars and supporting affiliates.  

In May 2021 TU Education hosted a webinar about how to use the toolkit as both a workplace bargaining resource and for unions as employers.  

The webinar was attended by over 500 trade union reps again demonstrating the importance of this work, and our members’ commitment to the trade union movement leading by example.   

Further to this Nikki Pound, our TUC women’s officer has been engaging directly with unions to help lay the foundations for culture change, raising awareness of the approach and work that we are doing - both in terms of our external facing campaigning and our internal work including supporting the roll out of the toolkit for reps and for unions as employers for a range of affiliates.  

Union survey – progress towards tackling and preventing sexual harassment.  

In May 2022 the EC Working Group launched a survey of unions to hear directly from unions about the work they are doing to tackle and prevent sexual harassment as unions for their members and as employers for their staff. This was also an opportunity to collect examples of good practice and to hear from unions about the main challenges and barriers unions may be facing and further support they need.  

This year the equality audit also included specific questions about tackling and preventing sexual harassment.  

39 affiliates responded to our survey: 

  • nearly half (18) told us they were already developing or progressing a programme of work to effectively tackle, respond to and prevent sexual harassment.  
  • The Equality Audit revealed that 14 unions had undertaken work to prevent sexual harassment within their union over the last four years, including new policies, procedures, and training.  

In our survey, the majority of unions said their planned or ongoing work sought to include employees, members, paid officials, trade union reps and governing structures. Leadership and HR teams within unions were the main groups involved in developing the work programme at this stage. Of those who responded but did not currently have a plan in place, the majority reported that they were looking to develop one.  

Examples of steps unions told us they were taking included: 

  • using the TUC Framework and toolkit resources, 
  • developing anti-sexual harassment workplace policies 
  • undertaking EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) audits  
  • developing a code of conduct that is shared in all meetings and at all events 
  • actioning risk assessments as part of event planning  
  • reducing alcohol available at conferences and receptions  
  • undertaking reviews of rule books and internal policies and processes including the process for handling complaints and investigations 
  • creating safe spaces for workers to raise any concerns about culture or behaviour within the union.  

16 affiliates told us they had developed a standalone anti-sexual harassment policy for staff and around a fifth of those who responded said they were developing or had developed a policy for members.  

Of those who responded, nearly half (18) told us they had specifically undertaken a review of their employment policies, procedures, and contracts to reflect a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment. Just over a third (14) of affiliates who responded had set up a working group or similar, to progress and oversee the work, 27 affiliates had a named member of staff or senior management lead responsible for the work.  

Just over a third (14) of affiliates who responded said they had training on sexual harassment planned or ongoing. For the majority, this training was aimed at senior management and line managers, HR, and employees at present. A further 8 unions told us they were looking to develop and deliver training for members.  

Of affiliates who have a programme of work in place or being developed, most had communicated their plan and progress via messages from senior leaders and through staff and TU rep briefings. Five affiliates had begun to ensure staff induction processes include awareness of sexual harassment policies and initiatives.  

Some affiliates also shared with us the work they are doing to progress this work for members in workplaces. This included the introduction of schemes whereby women members can specifically request specially trained women officers to offer support, advice, and representation. The intention is to put issues that impact women in the workplace at the heart of the union agenda and ensure that barriers to women seeking support are addressed.  

We asked affiliates to tell us some of the key challenges they were facing and what support they might need. The main challenge affiliates told us they were facing was time and resources to develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan. Reviewing rules, policies and procedures is intensive and needs to be done in consultation with workers and relevant structures. Unions also told us understanding what a good reporting system and safe reporting routes look like, and having the resources to implement them, is a key challenge. Access to high quality training is also a challenge. It was clear from the survey that, while affiliates are committed to the work of culture change and many are making progress, it is difficult, complex and for some affiliates, their work is met with resistance, and that this is compounded by a lack of diversity at different levels within our organisations.  

Affiliates who responded suggested some practical actions that could help them progress work to effectively respond to, tackle and prevent sexual harassment within their organisations. Given time and resource constraints, proposals primarily focused on developing best practice guidance, for example a template members’ policy, events checklists, and good practice on reporting and carrying out investigations, as well as further training for different layers of our movement.  

The work many affiliates have undertaken so far is positive. However, from the survey it is clear there is much more to be done and many of our unions are still in the early stages of developing this work. 

It is clear there is no one silver bullet. Every action and initiative must be part of a comprehensive strategy and plan.  

In the next part of the report, we set out principles for change and recommendations for how to build a preventative culture and deliver the change that is demanded by our movement.  

Principles for culture change 

If we are to effectively tackle sexual harassment in workplaces including our movement, then we must change the culture that enables it, including the sexism and misogyny that women face daily. Sexual harassment is about power and control. We know anyone can experience sexual harassment, but as our own research has shown, it is women who are overwhelmingly the victims-survivors of sexual harassment and the majority do not report. A culture of sexism and misogyny creates a permissive environment in which sexual harassment can occur. 

Through our research we also know that sexual harassment can be more prevalent for younger and disabled women, Black, LGBT+ and migrant workers, and those in insecure forms of work, and that experiences of sexual harassment can be compounded by other forms of discrimination.  

To build preventative cultures we must acknowledge that culture change does need to happen. We must be intersectional in our approach, recognising the role inequality and multiple forms of discrimination play in perpetuating permissive cultures and understanding that this work cannot be time specific and must be part of an ongoing course of action. 


  • The trade union movement believes sexual harassment and the cultures that enable it are unacceptable and morally wrong. Sexual harassment has a real and detrimental impact on individuals, our workplaces and on our organisations – it has no place in the trade union movement.  
  • Sexual harassment is not inevitable. It can be prevented through practical action to protect workers and members against harassment and transform workplace and organisational cultures. Appropriate action should be taken to build positive cultures of prevention within our movement.  
  • Tackling and preventing sexual harassment in our movement, as well as in our members workplaces, must be a priority for trade unions. We must lead by example. There must be genuine and full commitment and dedication to properly resource and support culture change across trade union structures by the senior leadership of the trade union movement.  
  • Our own staff and activists must be safe, equal and have dignity in trade union workplaces and spaces. This is not only our legal responsibility, but our moral duty. At a time when working people and trade unions are under attack it is vital that we uphold decent standards of behaviour - there must be no tolerance of sexual harassment, or any form of discrimination, that serves only to weaken our movement. 
  • We believe victim-survivors and support them to make reports should they wish to. No-one should suffer a detriment for reporting incidents of sexual violence or supporting a colleague or member to do so. Staff and members must have access to safe reporting routes and support.  
  • We do not silence victim-survivors or anyone reporting incidences of harassment, victimisation, or discriminatory behaviour. In line with TUC policy and ACAS best practice guidance, NDAs or Settlement Agreements should not be used in cases of sexual harassment, or any other form of bullying, harassment, or discrimination, or as an alternative to carrying out robust investigations.  

Practical action 

The strength of our movement lies in our solidarity, diversity, and inclusivity, as such, each union is sovereign and will set their own programme of work and priorities.  In line with the working groups Terms of Reference, it is not the intention of the working group to be prescriptive of the steps individual unions must take, but we will continue to offer advice, guidance, support, and oversight.  

Below we set out recommendations for practical steps for unions to take to effectively tackle, respond to, and prevent sexual harassment within their own organisations. These recommendations are based on our findings and expert guidance.   

Drawing up an action plan which draws from all areas of your organisation will support driving this work. This should include HR teams, recognised staff unions, equality committees [or equivalent] and governance structures. Independent experts can also help with developing a strategy and delivering steps outlined in an action plan. We recommend that actions plans should incorporate the following steps to demonstrate clear commitment and accountability. 


i) Unions should have standalone policies for staff and members as part of a strategic approach to tackling, responding to and preventing sexual harassment. An effective policy should be clear on the unions intent and culture, definitions of sexual harassment and victimisation, the steps the union will take to prevent sexual harassment as well as safe reporting routes and how reports will be responded to. These policies should be communicated clearly and frequently to staff and members through the appropriate channels for the organisation and they should be clearly linked to other policies and commitments regarding bullying, harassment, and anti-discrimination. The TUC has developed an example policy for unions as part of our unions as employer’s toolkit. The EHRC, ACAS, and the ILO also provide guidance on what should be included in a comprehensive workplace policy.  

ii) Unions should take steps to review their rule books (including taking legal advice if necessary) to ensure they reflect our values as a movement and the objectives and processes developed for dealing with sexual harassment and the cultures that enable it. For example, the TUC has explicit clauses in our rules (and a detailed process) which refers to how harassment should be dealt with.  

iii) A lack of reporting [or a lack of diversity within an organisation] does not mean sexual harassment or a culture that enables it does not exist within an organisation. We know that 4 out of 5 women who have experienced sexual harassment do not report to their employer. Unions should ensure they have a clear picture of the culture within their organisation through regular anonymous climate survey’s specifically regarding sexual harassment, general staff surveys, and through mechanisms such as exit interviews. The TUC toolkit provides an example of an anonymous climate survey that can be used as a template for staff and/or members to establish a baseline and continue to monitor progress as necessary actions are implemented.  

iv) A risk-based approach will enable unions to identify areas of potential risk and then take action to minimise that risk. The TUC toolkit provides a sample risk assessment that unions can use as a template to identify key areas of risk within their organisation. These can determine the steps unions must take to tackle and prevent sexual harassment and ensure where incidences do occur, they are treated appropriately and effectively. Using a risk-based approach for events or busy periods such as conferences or demos is also recommended to assess specific risks that emerge under these circumstances.  

v) Unions should review their processes and procedures for investigating reports of sexual harassment, as well as disciplinary and appeal procedures and committees, ensuring that they are robust, independent, fair, gender balanced and diverse, and in line with ACAS/EHRC/TUC guidance.  

vi) Staff and members need access to clear and safe reporting routes. As outlined in the TUC example policy, reporting routes should be clearly communicated and signposted throughout the organisation, making clear the different processes for formal, informal, and anonymous reporting and the actions that can then be taken. Where survivors do not want to make a direct formal complaint of sexual violence, unions should appropriately record informal reporting and rumours of sexual violence. Those reporting incidences, and those who have reports disclosed to them, should have access to take up well-being, therapeutic, and specialist support services, should they wish to. 

vii) Clear codes of conduct explicitly stating that sexual harassment or any form of discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated should be communicated in the workplace and at all events, and union meetings. These should be clearly signposted throughout the organisation, for example, opening statements at events, posters around the workplace or venue, statements attached to meeting invites. These should also be linked to highlighting safe reporting routes.  

viii) From our work so far, it is clear a wide range of training to tackle sexual harassment is needed in every workplace, including our own. As outlined earlier in this report, the TUC is undertaking a pilot training programme to develop culture change training and lay the foundations for change across our movement, and for future work in this area. We recommend that all unions consider their training needs and how they will deliver training across their organisations - and what support they need to do so. Examples of training needs can be found in the appendices. 

Beyond Congress 

The EC working group was established in March 2021 to support trade unions as employers to tackle and prevent sexual harassment, as set out in this report we have made good progress over the last 18 months in identifying key challenges, sharing legal advice and resources to help the movement to progress this work, and providing opportunities for training for the senior leadership within our movement.  

However, this work cannot end at Congress. The TUC and affiliates must use this report to embed and build on the work delivered so far.  

Below we set out recommendations from the EC working group on next steps for continuing the work to build sustainability and delivering culture change.  


  1. The EC working group must continue its work to provide strategic guidance and oversight, as well as direct support to our movement. Developing and resourcing a strategic programme of work and oversight to support the work needed to tackle and prevent sexual harassment and deliver culture change across our movement should continue. The EC Working group should meet at least twice a year and report to the GC on progress.  
  2. Updates from affiliates on the work they are doing to tackle and prevent sexual harassment within their organisation should be a standing item on the EC/GC agenda in line with the above timeframe. 
  3. The EC working group should develop a statement of commitment for affiliates to endorse that incorporates the principles set out above and actions that unions must undertake. This will send an explicit message that we are committed to this work and that there is no place for sexual harassment in any workplace or space, including within our movement.  
  4. Following the survey of unions as employers and equality audit, the TUC should follow up with affiliates who did not respond or only partially responded to understand what barriers and challenges they are facing and how the TUC working group can support them. This should be complimented by continuing engagement with affiliates who did respond to learn lessons and share good practice.  
  5. Reporting and investigations are a key area to get right if we are to ensure that when incidences of sexual harassment do occur, they are treated appropriately. Working with affiliates and independent experts, the TUC working group should support gathering research, resources, and information on what best practice looks like for the trade union movement and how it can be implemented. In doing this, we will also build trust and confidence and send a clear message that we do not tolerate sexual harassment. 
  6. Build on the training project currently being developed and piloted by committing to resource the recruitment of further cohorts of trainers.   
  7. Work with EC working group members, affiliates, and TU Education to identify other training and practical resource needs, which of these the TUC/ working group is best placed to create and deliver and commit to developing and resourcing a clear delivery plan.  

We also recommend that we work with our sister centers in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to progress this work for our trade union staff and members across the UK. 


Training needs include: 

  • understanding sexual harassment and the cultures that enable it. 
  • How to carry out an appropriate and effective case investigations. 
  • Workplace bystander training 
  • Training on what sexual harassment is, how it manifests and why it will not be tolerated and what policies and processes are in place within your organisation, should be mandatory for all staff, officials, and members. Senior leaders, line managers. 
  • HR departments and anyone who may be more likely to have incidences of sexual harassment disclosed to them or be involved in investigating reports or assisting victims [and perpetrators] will require specific training. 

Useful resources: 

TUC building preventative culture toolkit  

EHRC guidance  

ACAS guidance  

ILO guidance  


TUC (2016) Still just a bit of Banter – women’s experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace…;

TUC (2017) Is racism real?  

TUC (2019) Sexual harassment of LGBT+ people in the workplace…;

TUC (2021) Sexual harassment of disabled women in the workplace…;

Global institute for Women’s Leadership / IPSOS (2020). What is acceptable behaviour in the workplace? al-womens-day-2020.pdf  

GEO (2021) 2020 Sexual Harassment Survey vernment/uploads/system/uploads/attach ment_data/file/1002873/2021-07-12_Sexu al_Harassment_Report_FINAL.pdf 

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