Sexual harassment conference hears calls for national campaign

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Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has called for a national government-led campaign to tackle sexual harassment in workplaces across the country.

The MSP has urged the Scottish Government to use its social advertising budget to launch a drive aimed at highlighting the issue.

The Lothian politician raised the issue as she addressed a Scottish Women’s Convention conference on sexual harassment in Glasgow.

Speaking ahead of the event, she said: “From Hollywood to Holyrood, sexual harassment was an international scandal for three weeks last year. But too little has changed as a result.

“The Scottish Parliament is working to get its own house in order, but there is more to do for all political parties in addressing this issue, including full reviews of sexual harassment policies.

“It’s important to realise that we are kidding ourselves if we think the parliament is a normal place of work. It’s an elite political bubble where there is a higher expectation of good behaviour. In workplaces across the country, sexual harassment is likely to be significantly worse.

“The Scottish Government should now lead by example and launch a national campaign to tackle sexual harassment in workplaces. It can use its influence to encourage public and private sector bodies to review their own practices, so that no woman ever has to face sexual harassment in their job.”

Addressing the meeting itself, Ms Dugdale said resources must not be diverted from Equally Safe – the Scottish Government’s strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls – to tackle sexist behaviour in the workplace “because there’s so much other work within Equally Safe that needs to be done”.

“So if it requires more resources to lead this campaign around sexual harassment across the country, we’re just going to have to take that additional step,” she said.

“What I’m talking about is a national advertising campaign. It’s all very well producing leaflets and putting them out in the workplace, but the Scottish Government have what they call their social advertising budget – the money that they spend telling us to eat five fruit and veg a day, to do a certain amount of exercise, to not drink too much wine … Couldn’t that budget be used to talk about what sexual harassment is and what to do if you’ve experience it in the workplace?”

She also praised steps the Scottish Parliament is taking to address workplace harassment, but warned that all political parties still have more work to do.

A confidential phone line was launched at the Scottish Parliament in November last year after allegations of sexual misconduct at Holyrood emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and accusations sweeping Westminster.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance told the meeting that employers have to take the issue of sexual harassment seriously.

She said: “Every employer should carefully reflect on their working environment and how conducive it is to reporting harassment and abuse.

“They also need to ensure that they have robust, sensitive and fair procedures and processes in place to deal with complaints and that employees are aware of these and that they are confident in these policies and procedures.

“Because if women experiencing harassment or abuse do not have confidence, that pervasive silence will indeed continue to exist and those who choose to behave in this way will continue to believe that they can act with impunity.”

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