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21 January 2020

UK businesses 'most proactive in Europe' in efforts to combat sexual harassment

Survey by Littler finds 87% of UK companies are taking measures in response to #MeToo movement

UK businesses are the most proactive in Europe in their efforts to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace, according to research released this week by employment law firm Littler. Eighty-six per cent of the more than 100 UK general counsel and HR professionals who took part in Littler’s European Employer Survey Report said they had initiated measures in response to the #MeToo movement, compared to 79% of employers across Europe as a whole.

Thirty-six per cent of the respondents had updated their HR policies – the most popular measure taken – 35% had resolved to address complaints more proactively and 34% had instigated new investigation procedures.

A further one-in-four respondents (24%) had ‘reshaped workspaces, travel arrangements and social outings’ – an approach adopted by magic circle firm Linklaters, which has appointed sober chaperones to supervise office parties, and the Law Society of England and Wales’s Junior Lawyers Division, which is not serving alcohol at any of its events in January.

London Littler partner Raoul Parekh said: “Last year’s Christmas parties saw reports of employee misconduct, including events that led to disciplinary actions and claims of sexual misconduct. Employers need to perform a balancing act when it comes to events; creating a celebration whilst ensuring inappropriate behaviour isn’t tolerated.”

The research also revealed that 35% of UK businesses have adjusted their compensation policies in order to improve their gender pay records.

Measures include pay rises to bring pay for women workers up to the level of male colleagues and back payments for the time lower pay was received.

Other steps taken by employers to close the gap include increasing transparency around wages (35%) and revising hiring practices, for example by not asking about prior salary and ensuring the interview panel is gender-balanced (35%).

Further reading: Lawyer helpline reports steep rise in bullying complaints

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