How common is sexual harassment in the Healthcare Sector?

The number of female employees within the healthcare sector is not only high but continues to increase.

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How common is sexual harassment in the Healthcare Sector?

The number of female employees within the healthcare sector is not only high but continues to increase. The NHS employ nearly 1.25 million people of which just under 80% are women. This figure has increased by nearly half since 2013.

So why is it we are still hearing about inequalities. And more worryingly, unacceptable behaviour like sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and even in some instances sexual assault within this sector?

In April 2019 Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer and Dr Zoe Norris released an article on GP Online. They discussed their own experiences of such behaviour within the BMA (British Medical Association).

They referred to an “outdated culture” in which women in even the most prestigious positions found themselves being harassed. These women included an LMC Chief Executive who, just after presenting a keynote speech, had been “explicitly propositioned” by a member of the audience. In writing their article, Dr Bramall-Stainer and Dr Norris gave their colleagues the opportunity to capitalise on the #MeToo movement and speak publicly about their experiences.

An investigation was initiated and a 32-page report has since been completed by Daphne Romney QC. Ms Romney asked every member of the BMA to take part. They email her with any examples of similar behaviour that they wanted to share. She received a long list of further instances of harassment and bullying and made numerous recommendations on how best to tackle the issue.

Unison has also recently undertaken a UK wide investigation. As nearly half a million of their members work in the healthcare sector.

They found nearly one in ten of those who responded had been sexually harassed within the last 12 months. The most common occurrences were being the recipient of inappropriate remarks (64%), unwanted or derogatory comments about clothing or appearance (49%) and sexual assault including stroking, hugging, touching or kissing (22% ). Unison have now published these results. The report is entitled “It’s Never OK: a report on sexual harassment against healthcare staff”.

Unfortunately, these instances are not restricted to the healthcare sector. With other high-profile matters such as Sir Philip Green and Ray Kelvin making headlines, it is becoming even more evident that employers must do more to defeat sexual harassment in the workplace.

There have been calls to Government to take a firmer approach and put more proactive policies in place. However, there are certain steps that you as an employer can take today to avoid this sort of behaviour occurring within your place of business:

1. Have an Equality and Diversity Policy and a Bullying and Harassment and Disciplinary Procedure which makes clear that harassment or any nature will not be tolerated.
2. Ensure that Equality and Diversity training is provided to all staff and they are re-trained every year.
3. Have a clear and fair Grievance Policy that is easy to find and available to all staff on request.
4. Investigate any complaints received (however trivial they may seem) thoroughly.
5. If in doubt, seek legal advice on how to handle this growing problem in the workplace.

If you would like to discuss how to put the procedures outlined above in place or if feel you may have been the victim of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault please call Charlotte Middleton on 0114 290 6286 or email Charlotte on

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