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Workplace sexual harassment inquiry launched by Women and Equalities Committee

Josie Cox
The inquiry will also assess the advantages and disadvantages of using non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases: Getty

An influential government committee has announced that it is launching a new inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace and how misconduct can be tackled more effectively, amid a slew of public cases and complaints in recent months.

The Women and Equalities Committee said that the launch follows a one-off House of Commons session at the end of January, at which members of the committee heard evidence on the matter from Neil Carberry, managing director at the Confederation of British Industry, and other employment rights and human resource specialists.

“Over the past few months there have been widespread reports of women’s appalling experiences of sexual harassment at work. Our recent evidence session with legal experts, employee and employers’ representatives painted a stark picture,” Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, said when announcing the launch of the latest inquiry.

“Clearly much more needs to be done, both by government and employers: this inquiry is about identifying solutions.”

The review will examine what actions the Government and employers can take to change workplace culture, how confidence to report problems can be increased, and how tackling harassment can be made a higher priority.

It will also look at how staff can be better protected from sexual harassment by clients, customers and others, how effective – and accessible – tribunals and other legal means of redress are, and what improvements could be made to both of those systems.

Finally, the inquiry will also assess the advantages and disadvantaged of using non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases, and what can be done to prevent the inappropriate use of such NDAs.

“We need to change workplace culture, keep women safe and provide effective legal remedies,” said Ms Miller.

“We also need to understand whether non-disclosure agreements are being abused by legal experts and employers to cover up wrongdoing. The committee would welcome evidence on how best to tackle these problems, currently faced by thousands of people at work.”

Evidence on the issues being examined can be submitted on the government’s website until 13 March.

The committee is simultaneously running a separate inquiry into the sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces. That investigation followed a similar evidence session, which took place in December. Evidence for that inquiry can be submitted until March 5.

A YouGov survey in October last year found that half of 18 to 24-year-olds said they had been sexually harassed in a public place in past five years. A quarter of those who said they had been harassed said that it had happened in the workplace.