The government and employers have been accused of failing to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace after a major study revealed that unwanted behaviour such as groping, touching and even assault were part of the “culture” in British industry.
Sexual harassment is “widespread and commonplace”, but legal protection is not always available to workers in practice, said the House of Commons women and equalities committee.
Ministers were urged to put tackling sexual harassment at the top of the agenda, while employers and regulators were accused of “ignoring” their responsibilities.
The MPs have held a six-month inquiry into the problem, concluding that a new duty is needed for employers to prevent harassment.
“It is shameful that unwanted sexual behaviours such as sexual comments, touching, groping and assault are seen as an everyday occurrence and part of the culture in workplaces,” said the MPs’ report.
“Currently, there is little incentive for employers and regulators to take robust action to tackle and prevent unwanted sexual behaviours in the workplace.
“In contrast, there is considerable focus on protecting people’s personal data and preventing money laundering, with stringent requirements on employers and businesses to meet their responsibilities in these areas. They should now put the same emphasis on tackling sexual harassment.”
The MPs detailed a number of priorities to be adopted, including a more active role by regulators, reducing barriers to taking cases to employment tribunals and a statutory code of practice to cover all workers, including interns and volunteers.
Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, said: “It is utterly shameful that in 2018, unwanted sexual comments, touching, groping and assault are seen as an everyday occurrence and part of the culture in many workplaces.
“Government, regulators and employers have been dodging their responsibilities for far too long.
“The effects of sexual harassment can be traumatic and devastating, and this is reinforced by the personal evidence we received.
“The lack of appropriate support for victims within the workplace cannot continue.”