Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment


10:46 pm - October 10th 2012

by Sarah McAlpine    


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The Government will be scaling back harassment protection in the workplace in a move women’s rights groups have said could “turn back time.”

In a bid to cut ‘red-tape’, employers will no longer be obliged to take steps to protect employees from harassment from third parties-such as customers. Under current legislation, reasonable steps are expected to be taken if an employee is repeatedly harassed in the work place.

The plans come during a week dominated by discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace- Janet Street-Porter, DJ Liz Kershaw and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig have all come forward with accounts of harassment and sexual assault whilst working for the BBC.

A 2012 survey of 3,400 women found that half of women had experienced ‘gendered harassment’ in the workplace.

Speaking to Liberal Conspiracy, Preethi Sundaram, Policy and Campaigns Manager for The Fawcett Society said “At a time when women’s workplace rights are already precarious, we cannot afford any risk of regression.”

“Employment regulation and protections against discrimination have been key drivers in giving women greater access to work and an independent income over the years – to put this on the bonfire would be to turn back time.”

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will also scrap what the Government is calling “needless beauracracy and out-of-date rules,” including a complete overhaul of the employment tribunal system.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said “clearing away barriers to help businesses grow and invest is an essential part of the Government’s plan for growth.”

“The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will help strengthen the business environment and boost confidence.”

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About the author
Sarah McAlpine is a News Editor at Liberal Conspiracy, and volunteer Co-Editor at www.womensviewsonnews.org. Raging Feminist. She likes Politics, Smashing Patriarchy & Animal Videos - though not necessarily in that order.
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Story Filed Under: Feminism ,Law ,News ,Sex equality ,top

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Reader comments


As usual we must all bow to the God of business. You can do whatever you like, steal, rob, blackmail, rape, and even kill, but as long as it is done in the name of business then it’s just fine. The party of “law and order ” will openly encourage it if money can be made.

What could the BBC have done to prevent Sir Nicholas Fairburn, a legendary right-wing Conservative MP, from putting his hand up the skirt of Ann Leslie, a Mail reporter and columnist, while she was speaking on the Any Qustions programme, as reported here in the Mail?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2215375/What-Rod-Stewart-Boris-Johnson-Bill-Clinton-teach-men-women.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Should the BBC have been fined for allowing this to happen? Ann Leslie was also interviewed on the BBC. She said that she told the late Robin Cook what had happened when she shared a taxi with him after the programme but he only laughed.

This lot just can’t join the dots, can they?

On BBC Breakfast this morning, we’ve had Cris Patten banging on about making sure ‘this sort of thing’ – the Jimmy Savile case – ‘never happens again’. Meanwhile his Party is giving employers a licence to ignore harassment of their employees by creepy hospital visitors, charity volunteers, and other third parties. (OK, Savile himself seems to have been more interested in grooming patients than groping nurses, but that’s hardly the point.)

We’ve also had Norman Lamb encouraging workers in care homes to blow the whistle when they have concerns about abuse – workers who, if his Government gets its way, may well have signed away their right to claim unfair dismissal if their employer sacks them for asking awkward questions.

It’s an article of faith to these people that this sort of legislation is put in place just to annoy employers. Point out the sort of cases in which workers might need protection and the fingers go in the ears.

I’d like to have a “like” button on this website so I can easily express my agreement with comments such as GO @3

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 Bob B

The OP says that the current rules require businesses to take reasonable steps if an employee is repeatedly harassed, not that they should magically know when it’s going to happen and prevent it. Do you know something we don’t?

6. Illegal Immigrant

This is one where it’s helpful to have the full facts before jumping to a conclusion.

Prior to the 2010 Equality Act employers already had tyo do this under the general duties for their employees’ welfare in the Health & Saftey at Work Act 1974 (enforceable through the civil courts). The 2010 Act then replicated this right, but giving employees a second shot through the tribunal system – but with added details (so firms have to keep a record/ action must happen if the harrassment happens three times – in effect legitimising for the first two occasions!). Clearing the 2010 Act away does not reduce the protection available to employees – but it does stop forum shopping and the development of divergent case law.

Plus the ERR Bill also adds new powers for tribunals to issue financial penalties against empoyers where there are aggravating factors, and to force firms to undergo mandated equal pay audits.

So essentially, not all that exciting – neither a huge lifting of red tape, nor a attack on workers.

Has anyone actually taken the time to read the Bill?

These LC titles are getting madder by the day. It is NOT scaling back protection for sexual harassment. The effect will be a change from where compensation is sought. In any event, this is not addressing just sexual harassment, but harassment generally. There is no change to the correct action to be taken in sexual harassment cases, which is to call the police.

Otherwise, as someone who actually practises employment law, many of these changes will be welcomed, and are necessary.

Also, please do remember this is a Bill, not an Act. It is still in its infancy in the Commons and is likely to change significantly.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ Freemen

Cheers for the info. Do you know whether companies would still be liable for harassment if they are found to be negligent, or whether harassment is just being redefined as not the employer’s responsibility? It’s not clear from the link in the OP.

Freeman:

These LC titles are getting madder by the day. It is NOT scaling back protection for sexual harassment. The effect will be a change from where compensation is sought. In any event, this is not addressing just sexual harassment, but harassment generally.

Conclusions:

1 – If I was generous, I’d say the OP is highlighting one specific form of harassment to make a wider point.

2 – If I was less generous, I’d argue that it singles out sexual harassment because that’s what matters to the author (so somebody else will have to write about other kinds of harassment).

3 – If I was mean, I’d suggest that by focusing on women and sexual harassment, the author thinks she’ll win a campaign against the changes, because using ‘men’ or ‘public sector workers’ or ’employees’ just doesn’t pack the same punch (even if all those people get punched, kicked, harassed or assaulted). Hence the headline, and the topical references re. Savile and the BBC – it’s not as though using traffic wardens and a quote from the TUC would get the same attention.

Since evidence is emerging that the BBC first operated and then covered-up a child sex ring, Ofcom must consider whether the BBC meets the fit and proper criteria.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 9 redpesto

I have the same suspicions, and it wouldn’t be the first time. Remember when “Ken Clarke wants earlier parole in general” was magically turned into “Ken Clarke wants earlier parole for rapists”?

Chaise: “Remember when ‘Ken Clarke wants earlier parole in general’ was magically turned into ‘Ken Clarke wants earlier parole for rapists’?”

And how GM crop trials turned into Frankenstein Food?

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Bob

Aye, that too.

@ 6

This is one where it’s helpful to have the full facts before jumping to a conclusion.

Some people will do anything to spoil a good story.

Get a life!!!

If your boss makes sexual overtures to you and you resist it’s straight out the door.

Slaves did not have rights and this Tory Led Coalition is going to make sure we lose the very rights that people before us fought for and made law.

This is not the Nasty Party it is the Evil Party.

Soon we will have no workers rights, legals rights, pension, recourse to justice or any rights.

Victorians times are back with us !

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 Mr Grunt

“If your boss makes sexual overtures to you and you resist it’s straight out the door.”

This is about whether or not your company is responsible for you being harrassed on the job, e.g. by a customer. If your boss harrasses you, that’s still illegal, and if you’re fired for turning them down, that’s still grounds for unfair dismissal.

The Tories are taking away plenty of rights; no need to invent things.

Chaise Guevara @ 16

Hi Chaise, thanks for the nudge but I was refering to the future bringing this subject together with George Osbornes dream of fooling/conning people into giving up their workers rights in return for shares that will probably end up worthless due to losing your job or the markets.

Agreed, I was getting somewhat carried away with over emphasizing due to my dislike for this Tory Led Coalition and it’s deceit and lies. My point was that once people throw away or forced to wave goodbye to their workers rights this issue will become a regular occurence and employees will then have no recourse to justice whatsoever.

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 Mr Grunt

Come to think of it, you’re right that this dovetails with Osborne’s attack on worker’s rights to mean that someone who was sexually harrassed would not be able to sue for unfair dismissal. So if the worker in question had enough evidence for a civil case, but not a criminal conviction, they’d be left with no recourse as far as I can see.

Redpesto @9. If it’s how you describe there, then the photo going with the thread is a bit intimidating.

Because, given the combonation of it, the headline and the story, it’s difficult for a man to question any of this without being open to the accusation of being ‘a male chauvinist pig’.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ damon

To be fair, I’ve never heard the phrase “male chauvinist pig” used unironically in my life.

@ Chaise. Yeah, but you know what I mean?
Women in full voice, holding up signs about harassment are difficult to argue with.

Julie Bindle and her pals would have hard to argue with in the early 1980s, when they stood outside Soho sex shops and shouted at men going in and coming out of them. They take the ‘moral high ground’ just by they way they present themselves – regardless of the merits of their argument.

It’s a pretty mainstream tactic of feminism.
That’s why blogs like this one will never go against any mainstream feminist consensus. Even when it’s a dubious as Slutwalks.
As it leaves you on the ‘outside’.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ damon

Agreed. There’s at least one example of that sort of thing in this comment section. I think it’s also why people tend to present the “scantily-clad women = objectification” idea as an established fact, rather than a slightly odd leap of logic.

While I agree that a “scantily-clad women = objectification” argument would be pretty silly, I do however think that the porn industry is pretty dreadful.
Not all of it maybe, and I’m not against porn in principle, or against the viewing of it in principle (I’ve seen plenty of it myself), but that it exploits so many people in the making of it. It’s often just prostitution being filmed. People being paid to degrade themselves for other’s benefit.

Maybe you could talk to the noisy women protesters outside the sex shops after they’d finnished.
But as soon as you disagree, it can be falling out time.

Japan and America are neck-and-neck as to which has the larger global porn industry. We are talking really big money with industry turnovers running into the billions. In the present business climate with concerns about whether the global economy could sink into a prolonged recession, it’s very doubtful whether any government will take measures to curb or even to regulate their national porn industry. The best advice is to tell parents and schools how to work the filters on the browsers of their computers.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 damon

Home movies aside, how could any porn not be described as “prostitution being filmed”? I doubt porn stars work pro bono.

Your title says Sexual Harassment protection is being scaled back and then your article goes on to quote “Employment regulation and protections against discrimination have been key drivers in giving women greater access to work and an independent income over the years – to put this on the bonfire would be to turn back time.”

These are two totally different things. By all means wind up your audience, but at least do it with your facts in order.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  3. Shantel Burns

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  7. Hilda Palmer

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  8. Billy Bell

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  9. Karen

    Government Scales Back Workplace Protections Against Sexual Harassment http://t.co/evh8LEmx <<< Every time I think they can go now lower…

  10. Collin Whittaker

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  11. Janet Graham

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  12. paulstpancras

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  13. Marjorie Dawson

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  14. Angry Girli

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  15. Meg Howarth

    BEYOND PARODY Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment – in week of #Savile revelations http://t.co/f6K8Dsud @paraicobrien

  16. Sarah McAlpine

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  17. Viktoriya

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  18. Richard Craig

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  19. sianushka

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  20. Steph Farnsworth

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  21. Jamie Potter

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  22. Craig Russell

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  23. Jessica

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  24. Claire

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  25. Frances Scott

    I just can't believe this. Sexual harassment regs aren't red tape, they're too protect staff http://t.co/IHsYuk4k this govt are such fuckers

  26. AllResources

    Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kyQ3c75Y via @libcon

  27. Lanie Ingram

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  28. Terry Wall

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  29. Broken Remote

    Talking about protecting the vulnerable… The #ConDems are stripping back protection at work legislation http://t.co/KpLBMbUe #bbcqt

  30. Kirsti Price

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  31. Rupert

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  32. Rose-the-pleb

    Government Plans to Scale Back Workplace Protection Against Sexual Harassment. My report @libcon http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  33. jenny morris

    Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ZI8lyPPD via @libcon

  34. Eugene Grant

    RT “@jennifermor: Govt scales back protections against #sexualharassment http://t.co/IiElBDEY @libcon” how wonderfully progressive. Oh, wait

  35. John Dougherty

    RT “@jennifermor: Govt scales back protections against #sexualharassment http://t.co/IiElBDEY @libcon” how wonderfully progressive. Oh, wait

  36. David Gillon

    RT “@jennifermor: Govt scales back protections against #sexualharassment http://t.co/IiElBDEY @libcon” how wonderfully progressive. Oh, wait

  37. kenkills

    RAGE RAGE RAGE RAGE RAGE! > Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/798E0O6d

  38. Sarah McAlpine

    @pennymitv Lets also not forget the current Government are repealing harassment protections, too http://t.co/a3XM2DPP

  39. Gillian Dennehy

    all about the money: Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/sme51bPb via @libcon

  40. Martin Grouch

    So .@Conservatives response to the #Savile case? Reduce sexual harassment laws?
    http://t.co/P7dEfli8





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