This weeks news will look into a handful of stories currently in the public eye as we stumble into the final year of the second decade of the twenty first century. The stories highlight the widening disparity of issues which are faced by workers of differing skill sets.
We start with the continuing issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. After five months of inexplicable deliberation the government has agreed with the Equality and Human Rights Commission that a Code of Practice is now necessary to tackle the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition the government also agreed that Non-disclosure agreements require much stricter regulation to ensure that possible gains aren’t sidelined by the depth of an employers pockets. In a more daring suggestion the government also agreed that employers should have to shoulder some responsibility once they are made aware of 3rd Party sexual harassment. A bold move indeed. (1)
Where specific sexual harassment warrants such action, the logical conclusion would be to refer any criminal activity to the Crown Prosecution Service for further investigation by the Police. However this might prove more problematic that first thought following revelations by the Guardian that the police force itself is awash with allegations of sexual harassment. Following a Freedom of Information request details of shocking numbers of complaints by both colleagues and the public were detailed despite only 28 of 43 forces supplying details. (2) Amongst the forces failing to respond was the Metropolitan Police. As if to add salt to the wound, very few complaints lead to satisfactory disciplinary action with offenders frequently encouraged or deciding to resign or retire. Its hard to imagine how the governments proposed Code of Practice will ever get off the ground if complainants subjected to the most criminal forms of sexual harassment potentially have to contend with further harassment from the very organisation tasked to protect them.
On a slightly different note, as we approach approximately 250 years since the increasingly widespread creation of Trade Unions in the UK (whilst acknowledging that trade guilds date back to Medieval times in England), workers at global behemoth amazon are pushing to create a trade union in USA to protect their more than 600,000 workers world wide against an increasing litany of abusive work practices. Whilst amazon has refused to acknowledge any of the allegations they face, the movement is gaining momentum. At the same time in a bizarre twist as artificial intelligence and robotics begin to occupy more manual workspace than ever there are increasing discussions about the need for ethical rights for robots in the workplace. (3) As robots increasingly cover more job roles and their capacity to make ‘thinking’ decisions becomes more complex, the need for such discussions is increasingly becoming an unavoidable. It could prove to be the most effective way to make rapid inroads on the ‘sexual harassment in the workplace’ issue. After all, it seems like the Police can’t be trusted with the job.
So there’s a greater need for trade unions despite their history to try to ensure basic worker rights in the one of the world’s largest multi-national corporations, should robots be afforded ethics and is this the best bet to avoid unstoppable sexual harassment in the workplace?
“A reputation built on success”
For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611