From Banter To Abuse? New Guide Aims To Eradicate Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

A new guide which seeks to tackle the continuing problem of sexual harassment in NI workplaces has been launched by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) in partnership with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

Often passed off as workplace ‘banter’, sexual harassment can take many forms which are confronted in the detailed guide. It also explores the impact on victims – and offers best practice advice to helping eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace.

Working in close collaboration with the LRA and fully endorsed by Women in Business, the guide was developed following years of campaigning by the trade union movement and consultation with diverse staff groups.

It also responds to a TUC poll* which revealed that more than half of women had experienced some sort of sexual harassment or violence at work during their career, with almost 80% of those affected, opting not to report it or seek support.

Quoting insights from lived experiences, the guide challenges organisations to consider how they create a positive, inclusive and safe workplace culture where all are treated with respect. It also includes a sample sexual harassment policy, which can be adapted to suit specific business needs.

Claire Webb, LRA and co-author of the report said, “What can be passed off as harmless ‘banter’ can actually amount to ‘abuse’, with harassment escalating and victims often suffering in silence or finding their complaints being dismissed.  Our guide tackles this and drives a shift in culture, helping employers create inclusive and equitable workplaces which are good for all.”

Clare Moore, ICTU and report co-author added, “The workplace should be a safe haven for all, but the facts prove otherwise. The trade union movement has been campaigning for decades to prevent sexual harassment, improve workplace culture and strengthen protections.  We are pleased to have worked in partnership with the LRA to produce this practical guidance for employers, trade unions and employees.”

Endorsing the publication of the guide, Minister for the Economy, Conor Murphy said:

“There is no place for any form of sexual harassment in the workplace. We know that it is primarily women who are subject to sexual harassment and that a high proportion of incidents go unreported. This new guide sets out clear steps to help employers and employees prevent sexual harassment and encourage reporting harassment when it does arise.”    

The guide is available from https://www.lra.org.uk/resources/advisory-guide/sexual-harassment-guidance-march-2024

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