Concerns mount over sexual harassment at work

Reports of serious sexual abuse and rape at the CBI are continuing to reverberate across business amid concerns the Government may allow legislation tackling the issue to fail.

Woman sitting at office desk looks worried as if she is bullied


Concerns about sexual harassment at work are mounting as the CBI continues to lose members over accusations of sexual assault and amid calls for the Government not to backtrack on legislation addressing the issue.

The TUC told the Government yesterday that it would be “shameful” if it backtracks on its promise to strengthen sexual harassment laws at work.

It cited reports in the Financial Times that ministers will allow The Worker Protection Bill to fall – despite previously vowing to support the legislation that will introduce a new preventative duty on employers to tackle harassment and abuse in the workplace.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “It would be utterly shameful if the government allows this bill to fall.

“Ministers promised to bring in new laws to tackle sexual harassment. But are now backsliding under pressure from backbenchers. Every day we hear stories about how endemic sexual harassment is in our workplaces…These protections are essential.”

The CBI has meanwhile admitted it hired “culturally toxic” staff and failed to fire those guilty of misconduct. It said a failure to act allowed a “very small minority of staff with regressive – and, in some cases, abhorrent – attitudes towards their female colleagues to feel more assured in their behaviour, and more confident of not being detected”. CBI president Brian McBride said the lobby group had been “complacent” and apologised for “mistakes in how we organised the business that led to terrible consequences.” This comes following allegations of sexual misconduct at the CBI, including claims that two women were raped by colleagues. Law firm Fox Williams has been conducting an investigation into the CBI and, in response to its recommendations, the CBI is hiring a chief people officer and all staff will complete compulsory anti-bullying and harassment training. Both the Government and Labour Party have suspended engagement with the CBI, while a number of large companies have cut ties with the group or suspended their membership. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said he could not “wait for a reincarnation of the CBI or the CBI itself to get back on its feet to engage with business,” adding “There’s no point engaging with the CBI when their own members have deserted them in droves. So we want to engage with a body that speaks for business.”

Fund manager Helena Morrissey warned that the CBI scandal could deter women from entering City professions. She said: “We need everyone to feel they’ll be respected and included if they join industry,”  adding that she is “personally worried that this might put women off joining”.

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