Prevention of sexual harassment put centre stage worldwide

In March 2016 WageIndicator started a information database on sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The initiative was prompted by the unexpected outburst of public sexual harassment during the celebration of New Year’s Eve in Cologne (Germany). The ensuing outrage has put new vigour into longer lasting campaigns to combat such practices, both in public spaces as well as at the workplace. Thus ILO (the UN’s labour agency) will launch a worldwide campaign in 2018, which it is presently preparing. As recent initiative also came from Angelina Jolie Pitt. The famous actress will be joining the London School of Economics as a visiting professor to teach on how to combat sexual violence in conflict. The course starts in the autumn of 2016. WageIndicator makes its present contribution, sponsored by the EU Progress program, in addressing basic questions first: what is sexual harassment? How to recognize it? What to do against it? The answers are published in all EU-members states plus Turkey, and ultimately in the gender pages of its 90 plus national websites.

Who commits sexual harassment and how?

Sexual harassment usually victimizes women. Working women are particularly vulnerable. They may be harmed in many respects: physically, emotionally and materially, in their careers and in their capacity to earn an honest living. Two guises, says an exhaustive WageIndicator display of its manifestations, occur regularly in everyday working life: perpetrators may operate in the open as bullies, or in secret, behind closed doors.

Bullies: sometimes sexual harassers are very blunt and outspoken, and will use jokes, pictures, or sexual anecdotes quite openly to embarrass or intimidate their victims. They may touch or stroke a colleague or employee in an inappropriate way, but turn it into a joke so that the victim feels silly or shy to report the incident. They may circulate lewd sexual emails, in the full knowledge that such content could be embarrassing and upsetting. They may pass comments on a person’s figure, including their breasts or buttocks, in a loud and disrespectful way.

Others operate on the quiet. Their methods may include manipulating one-on-one situations behind closed doors, where a staff member may be asked for sex in exchange for a salary raise or promotion. There may also be threats of violence if the victim does not go along with such requests. It may include sending private emails or messages of a sexual nature. Or it can take the guise of being repeatedly invited out on a date, when one has constantly refused.

Preventive policy at work

A sexual harassment policy focuses on the prevention and management of sexual harassment. In the workplace it is the responsibility of the employer. It can form part of the general employee handbook. It can also be written in partnership with employees and trade unions. Some employers incorporate information on sexual harassment into a general workplace harassment policy which covers other forms of unlawful harassment (such as harassment on the grounds of race, disability, sexual preference or age). Others decide there is a need for a stand-alone sexual harassment policy, particularly if sexual harassment is a common problem within the workplace. Both options are valid. If one’s workplace does not have a sexual harassment policy, one could petition for one and get the support of the trade union or HR department for this.

Sexual Harassment in United Kingdom -

What is the WITA-Gender Pay Gap project?

This WageIndicator contribution to the prevention of sexual harassment is made possible through the WITA-project. WITA stands for: With Innovative Tools Against Gender Pay Gap – WITA GPG (January 2015 - December 2016) aims to make a significant contribution in reducing the large and enduring gender pay gap. It is made possible by the European Commission PROGRESS program Action Grant nr. 4000004929. One of the activities is to focus on sexual harassment at the workplace. All findings will be published at the national WageIndicator websites of all 28 EU-member states and Turkey, as well as dissemination through press releases.

More information about the WITA project

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