Prospect launches sexual harassment support service

Helpline launched after revelations of sexual misconduct at the Ministry of Defence
Photo: Image by Jan Vašek/Pixabay

The Prospect trade union has launched a helpline for public servants who experience sexual harassment at work, following revelations about the scale of sexual misconduct at the Ministry of Defence.

Members of the union – which represents professionals in the civil service and other areas of public service – can use the service to record instances of sexual harassment and enable Prospect to track “problem areas”, it said.

They will also have the option to talk to a trained staff member or discuss possible next steps, such as raising the issue formally with their employer.

Prospect is rolling out the service across its membership after what it called a “successful” trial in its defence and freelance areas.

The service comes after a series of revelations about bad behaviour in the MoD, including an open letter to its permanent secretary complaining of a “hostile” and “toxic” culture at the department. The letter, which was signed by 60 female senior civil servants, included anonymous testimonies of assault, harassment and abuse, including instances where female staff described being “propositioned”, “groped” and “touched repeatedly” by male colleagues.

In a subsequent survey by Prospect in February, 61% of those working at the MoD said they had experienced sexual harassment at work and 11% said they had been sexually assaulted in a work-related setting.

Earlier this month, Prospect coordinated a joint letter to Ministry of Defence leadership calling for an independent inquiry into the revelations.

The letter, which was signed by the FDA and PCS unions as well as sexual-violence charities and academics, said it was “high time that there is a comprehensive and independent inquiry into sexual harassment in defence that listens to victims and makes binding recommendations for action by the MoD”.

Announcing the helpline today, Prospect’s senior deputy general secretary, Sue Ferns, said: “Ideally one’s employer or engager would be the first port of call to raise concerns of this nature but when trust is lacking and workers do not have confidence that the issue will be dealt with, Prospect will help members to access the support they need. 

“Sexual harassment in the workplace remains all too prevalent and can ruin lives, so providing members with appropriate support is essential.  

"Prospect’s position is one of zero tolerance – that means not just saying it but doing something about it.”

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