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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Sexual harassment 'still common'
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The EOC warns that harassment is still prevalent
Sexual harassment is still common in the workplace and employers need to do more to stop it, it has been warned.

It comes as the Equal Opportunities Commission has issued new guidelines, after research showed the issue remains a serious problem.

Glasgow lab assistant Jean Porcelli won landmark compensation 20 years ago after arguing harassment of a sexual nature by two colleagues was illegal.

She said she was "disheartened" that sexual harassment still happened.

Ms Porcelli's case resulted in the problem being classed as a form of harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Sexual harassment is still an issue causing women stress, health problems and financial penalties
Jenny Watson
Chairwoman of the EOC

Early findings from an EOC study, to be published later this year, showed that sexual harassment was most common where there were far more men or women in an office, where men held positions of power, during periods of job insecurity or when a new manager was appointed.

Harassment makes up more than one in five of sex discrimination cases and there has been one successful complaint brought every week in the past five years.

The new guidelines cover the legal position from the employer's viewpoint and how to handle complaints effectively.

Staff training

They also give advice on the measures employers can put in place to prevent harassment occurring in the first place and stress training all staff and managers on the policy and their responsibilities under it.

Chairwoman of the EOC Jenny Watson said: "Twenty years on from Jean Porcelli's landmark case, sexual harassment is still an issue causing women stress, health problems and financial penalties when they leave their jobs to avoid it.

"We suspect that the cases that come to our attention are the tip of the iceberg.

It disheartens me that sexual harassment still happens, sadly my own daughter has experienced it
Jean Porcelli

"It is important for women to know what they can do to tackle harassment and for employers to know how they can help stamp it out in the workplace."

Ms Porcelli said she had been labelled a troublemaker for making a complaint and was forced to take early retirement.

She said: "It disheartens me that sexual harassment still happens, sadly my own daughter has experienced it.

"And I can certainly understand why so many women are reluctant to come forward - I know I paid a great price, both personally and professionally."

Business measures

Susan Anderson, the Confederation of British Industry director of human resources policy, said: "The anniversary of Jean Porcelli's victory is a reminder of how far we've come since 1986.

"Harassment is not just an issue for women and, whether on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age, it is not acceptable.

"Of course, it will still occur but attitudes and behaviour have changed greatly over the last 20 years and incidents are thankfully few and far between."

She added that many employers had established formal and informal mechanisms to ensure that staff understood that no form of harassment or discrimination would be tolerated.

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