Have Harassment Scandals Encouraged People to Speak Up in the Workplace?
- Date: Tuesday 20th March 2018
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You don't have to be a movie buff to know that there was something different about last week's Oscars ceremony. After a series of series of sexual harassment scandals that have rocked Hollywood over the last six months, there was a palpable sense that it was no longer business as usual, and that people felt empowered to speak out and demand change.
The entertainment industry is not the only sector determined to get its house in order. Last month, the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom pledged to “fundamentally change” the working culture in parliament, after a report showed that more than a third of staff in Westminster have experienced harassment or bullying in the last year.
But have the recent spate of high-profile harassment scandals and a veritable tsunami of newspaper headlines encouraged other people to speak up about malpractice in their own workplace?
Increase in people speaking up at work
A report recently published by Expolink, which provides whistleblowing hotline services for more than 600 companies, revealed it has seen a 20% increase in the number of calls it has received over the last year.
These calls covered a wide range of subjects, including health and safety, bullying, harassment and discrimination. Almost one in five were in relation to unprofessional behaviour, with a quarter of the calls involving HR, grievance procedures and unfair dismissal.
“In recent years, we have seen the number of calls slowly increase as employees have become gradually more comfortably with speaking out and using whistleblowing hotlines,” says Expolink’s Chief Executive, John Wilson. “This trend has leapt forward again since the autumn.”
“We suspect that broader social issues are affecting people’s confidence and encouraging them to come forward. It’s an obvious correlation and it’s about how confident people feel about how their concerns will be treated by their employer. Will they be investigated fairly? I guess the current trend shows people that it is worth reporting something and they will be listened to.”
More awareness of health and safety now, including mental health
Sampson Low, the Head of Policy at the trade union Unison, agrees there is more awareness now of harassment and health and safety issues, with more employers using whistle-blowing hotlines as part of a “suite” of other measures.
“Our local reps are being approached by more members of staff with a variety of mental health and stress issues. We think it’s vital that companies and organisations are open to staff and hotlines, alerting them to financial irregularities, harassment and other shortcomings.”
“In this day and age of social media, your reputation can sink very fast from a business point of view. Good treatment staff should be a basic building block of any organisation.”
“There is also a greater acknowledgement in large employers about staff wellbeing issues and no tolerance for harassment, bullying and other poor behaviours,” says Mr Low.
Our working lives have changed beyond all recognition over the last 20 or 30 years, with the advent of new technologies and markets. What was tolerated back then is no longer tolerated in a great number of workplaces and whistleblowing hotlines play a vital role in uncovering poor practices. Everybody deserves to work in healthy and safe environments, free from harassment.
Source: SHP Online