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MP Letter

 

Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP

Secretary of State for International Development

and Minister for Women and Equalities

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA                 

 

8 March 2019

 

Ending Workplace Harassment in the UK and Globally 

 

Dear Secretary of State, 

 

The #MeToo movement continues to draw attention to the violence and harassment that women face in their working lives in the UK and globally.

 

In the UK, more than half of women polled by the TUC have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Women in the UK who work in retail, hospitality, and many other sectors that deal with customers and clients on a daily basis currently have little protection from their employer when facing harassment from third parties. In 2013, the Government repealed Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which left those harassed by customers or clients with fewer legal rights.

 

I am pleased that, following the Women and Equalities Committee’s Inquiry into workplace harassment, the Government has agreed to introduce a new statutory code of practice to tackle sexual harassment at work. But more can and must be done if we are to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in the work place effectively. The Government must move from treating this as a problem for the individual woman to deal with, to one that the organisation owns. I urge you, as the Minister for Women and Equalities, to implement the Committee’s recommendations in full and introduce a new duty on employers to prevent harassment, supported by a statutory code of practice outlining the steps they can take to do this, and to reinstate Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010.

 

Worldwide, between 40% and 50% of women experience sexual harassment at work, yet more than one-third of the world's countries do not have any laws prohibiting workplace harassment and there is no international legal standard specifically for protecting women at work from these abuses.That is why, last June, I was pleased to see the UK Government show support for a legally-binding International Labour Organisation Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. A Convention is a golden opportunity to move from #MeToo to #TimesUp and a chance to ensure that the most exploited and vulnerable workers are better protected. It has the potential to change the lives of millions of women and girls who suffer disproportionate levels of abuse at work, often in the lowest paid and most insecure jobs. However, strong UK leadership is required if the Convention is going to protect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable women.

 

With final negotiations on the text of the Convention fast approaching, the focus increasingly seems to be on agreeing the least controversial wording in order to make the Convention widely ratifiable. However, if the provisions are watered down too much, the Convention will end up not protecting those women most at risk from violence and harassment, including those working in the informal sector and in non-traditional workplaces such as homeworkers, domestic workers and street vendors.  That is why I would like to urge you, as the Secretary of State for International Development, to advocate across Government for a strong and inclusive Convention, to help ensure that no-one is left behind and all working women, everywhere are safe from violence and harassment at work.  

 

To make workplaces safe in the UK and globally I urge you to:

  • Reinstate Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010;

  • Introduce a new duty on employers to prevent harassment;

  • Support a strong and inclusive ILO Convention.

 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

 

Yours Sincerely,

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