Sexual harassment in the workplace is an ‘epidemic,’ says survey

Sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces is an “epidemic that has been allowed to persist.”

Sexual harassment is far more prevalent in Canadian workplaces than company executives would like to believe, a new report says.

Indeed, the report from the Human Resources Professionals Association says recent revelations of harassment in the political, media, entertainment and business sectors have exposed the “dark reality” that sexual harassment in the workplace is an “epidemic that has been allowed to persist.”

In a survey of the association’s members, 17 per cent reported having witnessed an employee being sexually harassed or assaulted at work.

And 19 per cent reported an increase in the number of complaints they’ve received about harassment, a percentage that is not “dramatic” but “still significant.”

Related: #MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

The report notes that an online survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted by Navigator in February found that just over one third of female respondents and 12 per cent of men said they had been sexually harassed at work.

Yet, in another survey of company executives, conducted by the Gandalf Group, 94 per cent of respondents said sexual harassment is not a problem in their workplaces and 93 per cent believed they have a corporate culture that prevents it.

“These numbers are not in keeping with the rates of sexual harassment reported, which are also lower than the number of instances of harassment that actually occur,” the report says, noting that research suggests as much as 80 per cent of victims do not report the problem to anyone.

Related: B.C. police officers disciplined following harassment complaint

It also says 70 per cent of the association’s members who took part in the survey reported that their senior management is responsive to recommendations for dealing with sexual harassment policies.

However, 24 per cent said management is responsive but recommendations “are not always implemented.”

The association says all workplaces — including public institutions and political parties— must establish a zero-tolerance culture when it comes to sexual harassment.

That includes drafting a stand-alone policy, separate from other workplace conduct policies, to deal specifically with sexual assault and harassment, which the report says are “egregious forms of abuse which require specialized and highly sensitive handling.”

The policy should clearly define what constitutes sexual assault and harassment and spell out a fair process for lodging and investigating complaints. It should also involve training sessions for employees on what to do if harassed and training for supervisors on how to prevent harassment.

The association also calls on the federal government to expand its recently introduced bill to combat sexual harassment and assault in federally regulated workplaces to include the armed forces — an omission that it calls “concerning, given the multiple lawsuits and allegations against the Canadian military for failing to protect female officers from sexual assault and gender-based discrimination.”

Related: Me Too At Work: Sexual assault and harassment in the B.C. workplace

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Bus driver assault in Vancouver once again raises safety concerns

A 49-year-old Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid

‘Inventive ideas’ sought soon for Surrey One Act Festival, set to return to Whalley stage

Also planned by Royal Canadian Theatre Company is a Five Minute Play Writing Challenge

Draft business case for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain to be ready July 25

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation heard a progress update Thursday

Mayors, First Nations chiefs, urge ‘immediate action’ on new Massey crossing

Joint letter asks province to move up timeline, consider only eight-lane tunnel options

SFU unveils campus expansion in Surrey for clean tech studies

New building will be home to sustainable energy engineering program

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Worst 10 bus routes in Metro Vancouver for rider complaints

TransLink releases list, with Route 319 at the top

Amber alert issued for 5-year-old Ontario boy

Ethan Montes is believed to be in the company of his mother, 47-year-old Juliet Mohammed

Highway One to be widened east to 264th Street in Fraser Valley

The $235 million project includes upgrades to overpasses and a rail bridge

Port Moody mayor accused of sexual assault has first court appearance

Rob Vagramov’s case was adjourned to May 29

Most Read