September 3, 2019

One in Ten Retail Workers Experience Sexual Harassment According to New Research

Many of us would like to think that sexual harassment in the workplace is a thing of the past. Something our progressive modern world has left behind. However, according to expert’s sexual harassment is on the increase.

The MeToo movement has highlighted types of sexual harassment and gender discrimination and captured the attention of the media and general public.

One in ten retail workers experience sexual harassment

A new survey of 1,330 retail workers conducted by Foot Anstey has found that one in ten (11%) of retail workers have experienced ‘inappropriate touching of a sexual nature’ in their current role. While the survey found equal numbers of men and women reported harassment, almost a third of men surveyed had experienced violent physical attacks compared to 23% of women. The survey also found that most of the aggressive and violent attacks (78%) were experienced and reported by customers.

It was also equally alarming that almost a quarter (22%) said that there was no one they could raise concerns with at work.

The individuals surveyed were given the opportunity to share their experiences with researchers anonymously. One respondent commented: “One colleague made me sit on his lap once. And he was really close behind me. I could feel his warmth.”

Another said: “One particular colleague insists on touching people inappropriately. She is older and so everyone dismisses it as funny.”

Sexual harassment is clearly a live issue for all employers, so what is it and what steps can you take to protect your employees?

What is harassment?

The law defines harassment as “unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which violates an individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual”.

Examples of harassment

Harassment takes many forms ranging from relatively mild banter to actual physical violence and occurs across a range of platforms including text messages, emails and comments posted on social media.

The following are examples of unacceptable behaviour:

  • Coarse or insensitive jokes and pranks
  • Coarse or insensitive comments about appearance or character
  • Displaying or distributing offensive material (both written or pictorial)
  • Inappropriate contributions to social networks, blogs or messaging services that potentially violate dignity
  • Deliberate exclusion or isolation from conversation or activities
  • Unwelcome familiarity or body contact
  • Abusive, insulting, or threatening language
  • Demands, threats or abuse of power to intimidate or obtain favours
  • Threatened or actual violence

Do you have the right support and policies in place?

Employees should know where to seek help if they believe sexual harassment has occurred. In addition you should train managers and employees on the importance of reporting such incidents when they occur.

It’s also important to ensure that individuals who raise allegations are not subject to unfavourable treatment after making a complaint. Such unfavourable treatment could lead to claims of victimisation.

A key way to ensure duty of care and safety of your employees is to have a comprehensive Bullying and Harassment policy. Policies should remind employees of your zero-tolerance approach to any form of harassment.  Your policy should also state that any forms of harassment will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure with breaches possibly leading to dismissal for gross misconduct.

Next Steps

Moorepay customers who would like advice on managing sexual harassment in the workplace should contact our advice line on 0345 073 0240.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.