About the campaign.

This campaign demands zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in the workplace, no matter who the perpetrator is.

Sexual harassment by  a customer, client or other ‘third party’ is a serious and widespread issue in the UK.  Employees have the right to feel respected and be safe from harassment in their place of work.

The government, regulators and employers need to do more to protect employees from unwanted sexual behaviour from customers and clients.  Sexual harassment is not part of the job. 

This campaign aims to:

 
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  • AMPLIFY THE VOICES OF SURVIVORS and raise awareness.

Through hearing individual experiences, we  hope to further understand and highlight the true nature, extent and impact of sexual harassment by a customer, client or service-user.  Uniting around those who are able to speak out, and in solidarity with those who aren’t, we want to make survivors voices paramount.

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  • URGE GOVERNMENT ACTION to ensure better protections in law.

Employees have the right to be protected from sexual harassment in their place of work, no matter who the perpetrator is.

In 2013, a provision of the Equality Act 2010 was repealed by the Coalition Government, and so the law currently provides different protections depending on who the harasser is.  If you are harassed by a customer or client, you have fewer legal rights.

In the summer of 2018, Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee issued their recommendations for government concerning this issue. They asked the government to change the law to provide better protection for employees who are affected by harassment from a customer client or third party. 

Many other expert and charitable organisations have advised the same urgent change.

We believe all workers should be provided with the same rights, and urge the government to bring forward legislation similar to the repealed Section 40 (2-4) of the Equality Act 2010.

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  • PRESSURE EMPLOYERS to improve their workplace sexual harassment policies.

UK law requires employers to take steps to ensure their staff are able to work in a safe and respectful environment.  For example, we expect employers to make sure equipment is  safe and suitable for use; that staff don’t have to work unreasonable hours without breaks; and that they are treated fairly, not having to tolerate abuse. 

We want to pressure employers to improve their policies when it comes to sexual harassment by third party perpetrators.  Employers need to ensure a robust and efficient complaints process, specific and relevant training and maintain a zero tolerance culture towards harassment or sexist attitudes.

 

Why do we need to tackle sexual harassment by customers or clients?

The #metoo movement, other activist, charitable and Union led campaigns and a growing body of research, have begun to shine a light on the extent and nature of third party sexual harassment. There is no doubt that there is a need to tackle this shamefully common place behaviour. 

Being a victim of sexual harassment at work can have a devastating impact on someone’s mental and physical health, as well as their working life.   Too many feel they have to manage what has happened themselves; feeling isolated and that they are to blame.   Many worry about losing their jobs and income.  A huge number of incidences of sexual harassment are currently not reported at all.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a burden workers should have to suffer or deal with themselves.  There must be zero tolerance, and government, regulators and employers must act to better protect employees.

 
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What is sexual harassment by a third party?

 

Sexual harassment in the workplace can happen to anyone, in any job and can come in many forms.  You might have experienced

unwelcome sexual jokes, comments or questions

inappropriate remarks about your appearance or body

unwanted touching or groping

 being shown pornographic material

unwanted advances

flashing or sexually suggestive actions

sexual assault and abuse

The Equality Act 2010 defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature” with the intention or effect of violating someone’s dignity or “creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

Even if the customer/client perpetrator might not intend to humiliate or create hostility, if their actions or words have the effect of making the employee feel unsafe, offended or intimidated, then that falls under the definition.  Some forms of sexual harassment are also a criminal offence.

 
 
 
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4/5 women did not report the sexual harassment to their employer.

What is a 'third party'?

 A third party could be a customer, client or service user; anyone who the employee comes into contact or communication with because of their job or role.   

Harassment of this kind can be isolating, frightening and it can be difficult for the employee to know what to do.  Support from employers might be unavailable or inadequate, in some cases the behaviour might even be encouraged.

For example, the harasser could be a

customer in a bar, pub or restaurant

a client of an agency or office

a shopper, a visitor or service-user

someone receiving care or support at home

Sexual harassment can happen anywhere; over the phone, in emails or face-to-face.  It can happen in the employees place of work, or in the third party’s home or on their property.   

Please note the above explanations are intended to help with a general understanding of sexual harassment and third parties - they should not be read as legal advice for your specific circumstances or situation.

Who is most affected?

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, irrelevant of their gender identity, but current research shows women are far more likely to experience sexual harassment.  

Research collated by the Women and Equalities Committee report in July 2018 suggests certain groups are disproportionately affected or at risk; for example, young women aged 18 -24, employees with a long term illness or disability, or members of a sexual minority group.  Sexual harassment can intersect with other forms of harassment and discrimination, such as racial, transphobic, homophobic, religion and belief, immigration status or disability discrimination.

Those engaged as freelancers, gig workers or on zero-hours contracts are also more likely to be affected.  Workers in the retail, catering, hospitality, care, healthcare and transport sectors are particularly affected by harassment from a third party.

 We want to hear from anybody who would like to share what has happened to them. 

 
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About Jess Phillips MP.

Jess Phillips was elected as the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley in the 2015 election.

Before she was elected, Jess worked  as a manager at a charity supporting victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking. She has worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and the Department for Communities and Local Government on issues of violence against women and girls.  She is a member of the Women and Equalities Committee.

 
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