Sexual harassment and discrimination – is it on the rise?

21st September 2023

Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales sparked worldwide backlash when he refused to resign after kissing Spanish football player, and 2023 World Cup Champion, Jenni Hermoso. Instead, Rubiales blamed “false feminism” for committing a “social assassination” against him and branded himself the victim.

Critics have stated “Rubiales’ obliviousness to sexual discrimination and workplace harassment should finally force FIFA, football’s governing body, to do what it has long failed to do: address the culture of sexual violence and gender discrimination in woman’s football“.

Unfortunately, woman’s football is one of many industries where women are still victims of unlawful behaviour in the workplace. Statistics published last year indicate the following:

1. People management: 2022 gender equality in the workplace (RANDSTAD)

Out of 6,000 working adults this year, 72% of women had either encountered or witnessed inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues and 67% of women had experienced gender discrimination in some form.


Among full time employees, the gender pay gap in April 2022 was 8.3% which has increased from April 2021 where it was 7.7%.

3. Equality. It’s about time: sex and power index 2022:

  • Less than 1/3 of the UK’s top jobs are filled by women – across 5,166 positions of power in society women make up 32%
  • Women are only 8% of the FTSE 100 CEO’s and there are no women of colour.

In England, the right to not be discriminated against based on sex is enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, and has been part of the laws of England and Wales since the seventies, so why do the statistics point to this being a serious ongoing problem?

The rise in numbers, could be one of many factors such as changes to cultural norms – behaviour that was considered “normal” previously is now being seen as offensive. For example, a man whistling at a woman 40 years ago could be seen as a compliment, but in today’s society, many women could take offence to this. Childcare responsibilities have also changed, meaning more women are working, leading to increased exposure to workplace inequality.

We also currently live in a society where women have gained the confidence to speak up. Social media movements such as #MeToo have encouraged women to share their stories.

Finally, there is greater reporting then there was previously, which could be another contributing factor to the rise in numbers.

However, employers can promote equality and diversity and mitigate the risk of unlawful discrimination in their workplace by applying the following:

  1. Having a carefully drafted and well-communicated Equal Opportunities policy. This policy should set out what behaviour is acceptable in the workplace and the repercussions for non-compliance.
  2. Ensuring employees receive regular training.
  3. Having clear complaints and disciplinary policies in place.
  4. Having a flexible working policy in place – which will allow an employee to work additional hours to suit their personal commitments and help to enhance workplace equality.
  5. Providing training on diversity and equality – to educate staff and help senior managers create empathy so they can try to address any imbalances which exist in the workplace.
  6. Communicating with employees regularly – having an honest communication will help employers/employees to work together, so individuals feel more inclusive/comfortable to speak out if they have been harassed in some way.
  7. Sending out surveys to staff regularly/obtaining feedback from them, so employers can work out if certain policies are effective and what needs to change.

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