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Call for action on sexual harassment in workplace

Trade union federation SEK will be inviting other stakeholders to support a newly-created protocol for handling sexual harassment in the workplace.

SEK suggests the protocol be included in all collective agreements in an effort to help stamp out the phenomenon.

The most recent official figures available on the problem in Cyprus are from 2006 and say that 13 complaints had been made to the Labour Department but, according to the Secretary of SEK’s Women’s Department, Despina Isaia, said complaints have been on the rise ever since 2004 when workers became more aware of laws protecting them.

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Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Isaia  noted that the 2004 law on the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in the workplace included a provision for places of business to have and enforce a code of conduct on sexual harassment, most—including the state itself as an employer—did not.

“The code works as a deterrent to the emergence of the phenomenon of harassment and sexual harassment. If there is not code, the employer of the person carrying out the harassment is also at fault,” she noted.

She noted that the problem was usually more pronounced when there was no code in place: “There seem to be more problems in the public sector because the assailant feels safe from any repercussions. And when shift work is involved, it gets even worse”.

Isaia also said that people found it hard to come forward because of Cyprus’ tight-knit society.

There may not be recent figures for Cypriots but a study in the UK recently found that as many as 52% of women had fallen victim to sexual harassment at work.

The percentage involving young women aged 18-24 was even higher, climbing to 63%, the 2016 study published by the Trades Union Congress found.

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