CBI calls for “committed leadership” to tackle sexual harassment

Business body describes incidents as “totally unacceptable”

One of Britain’s most influential business bodies has urged employers to take steps to tackle sexual harassment.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said this week that harassment was “totally unacceptable” and that firms needed to work together to address the problem.

Concerns about the difficulties that many employees face in the workplace have grown, following a number of allegations made about misconduct in the film industry and latterly at Westminster.

In recent weeks, concerns have been raised about a system which makes it difficult for those employed by MPs to complain if they have been the victim of inappropriate behaviour.

While the press coverage has focused on the corridors of power, Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s Director General, made clear that sexual harassment was something that needed to be confronted across a whole range of sectors.

“Businesses take the wellbeing and welfare of their employees very seriously,” she said.

“But sexual harassment is often hidden and can come in many guises. Only committed leadership will ensure the workplace is free from sexual harassment and that, when it does happen, there are robust processes to deal with it.”

Ms Fairbairn’s intervention comes hard on the heels of research which suggested that around half of women and one in five men have suffered some form of sexual harassment either in the workplace or at their place of study.

Common problems include inappropriate comments and jokes, unwanted sexual advances and various forms of sexual assault.

But there are concerns that many cases still go unreported and pressure is growing on businesses to ensure they have put thorough procedures in place to ensure that victims have the proper means to report instances of inappropriate behaviour.

The CBI has also advocated firms producing a “code of conduct” to ensure that all members of their workforce are aware of what will and will not be tolerated.