Third party harassment must be stamped out, says Unite

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has called for concrete legislation to tackle third party harassment at work. Ensuring employers take a zero-tolerance approach to incidents and produce policies that truly protect workers. 

A third party is someone not directly involved in an organisation, for example: in the hospitality and retail industries, this would typically be a customer. In frontline workplaces such as hospitals, this is usually a patient.

Half of women aged 18 – 34 have experienced harassment from a third party at work, such as verbal abuse, intimidation, or physical violence. And figures released today from the NHS show that 8% of 700,000 healthcare workers said they suffered sexual harassment from patients, or other members of the public, last year.

The epidemic has been made worse by the removal of protections from the 2010 Equalities Act; with a watered-down Workers Protection Bill doing nothing to safeguard workers.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Staff safety should be one the highest of priorities for all employers and Unite is totally committed to tackling harassment in the workplace.  

“But harassed workers are being systematically failed, not only by bad bosses who don’t care but also by a government that deliberately lets employers ignore such forms of harassment with impunity.

Speaking today (Thursday 7 March) the TUC women’s conference in London - in which Unite tabled a motion calling for legislation to be implemented - Unite national officer for women, Alison Spencer-Scragg, expressed frustration at the lack of action from the government and employers.

Moving the motion, Spencer-Scragg said: “The removal of the need for employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment, puts the most vulnerable of workers at risk. Particularly frontline professionals, retail staff or hospitality workers who suffer regular abuse from service users or customers.”

Throughout the speech, Spencer-Scragg cemented Unite’s continued support for legislative measures, urging the government to show leadership to wipe out unacceptable and harmful behaviour.

She concluded: “Workspaces must be free of any kind of harassment and abuse. Our members demand better, and we are working to ensure their workplaces implement robust, preventative policies before incidents occur.”