Regulators are showing a “lack of focus and urgency” in tackling sexual harassment in the workplace, MPs have said.
Police and the healthcare sector should face Government intervention to “force” them to take sexual harassment seriously, according to the Women and Equalities Committee.
Earlier this year, the committee wrote to ten regulatory and inspection bodies in sectors – including the Bar Standards Board, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission – asking them to explain what they were doing to tackle workplace sexual harassment.
Maria Miller MP, the committee’s chair, said that the “lack of focus and urgency” demonstrated by some of the responses is “very concerning”.
“We know that employers are falling down in their responsibilities to create safe working environments,” she said.
“It’s vital, therefore, that those who oversee employers and professions step up to the mark in setting expectations and taking action where sexual harassment takes place.”
Mrs Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke, said the committee was “particularly disappointed” at how few of the bodies understood their responsibility to have “due regard” towards eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace.
She acknowledged that progress is being made in some areas, such as among the legal profession and financial services.
“But in other sectors, such as policing and healthcare, it is clear that the Government needs to step in to force these bodies to take sexual harassment seriously,” Mrs Miller added.
Earlier this year the committee concluded its six-month investigation into harassment, triggered by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
MPs discovered that British employers were using nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to bully victims into silence.
During the inquiry, MPs heard “deplorable examples of how NDAs have been used to threaten, bully and silence victims of sexual harassment” .
The committee concluded that sexual harassment remained “an everyday occurrence” and part of the culture in many workplaces, and accused employers, regulators and ministers of failing to stamp it out.
Their report, published in July, recommended new laws that would make it an offence for employers to use NDAs to prevent victims of sexual harassment going to the police.
The report suggested a new legal duty for employers to prevent harassment, supported by a statutory code of practice.
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