August 20, 2015
What’s the difference between office banter and comments which can make people feel uncomfortable at work? That’s the issue which has plagued the workplace for aeons, and the age of so-called political correctness has not made the situation any clearer. Legislation may be in place to protect staff from discrimination or victimisation, but as some well documented cases have demonstrated sexism is still rife in many white collar professions. But it’s worth noting that it’s not only women who can feel that a colleague has crossed the line. A new survey has found that well over three quarters of women (81 percent) have been victims of sexist jokes at work. However, men are not immune to feeling uncomfortable, as according to the survey by Peninsula, well over half of men (63 percent) feel uneasy when female colleagues make indecent remarks about their physical appearance.
Alan Price, HR Director of Peninsula, the employment law consultancy said: “I find it completely unacceptable that within today’s business community, sexism is still alive in the workplace. What is coming to light is the fact that women are not the only ones subjected to sexist remarks or jokes, men are also victims of this behaviour.
“Employers need to do more to stop and prevent further instances of sexism in their organisations, including ensuring their management teams are fully equipped to handle the situation effectively.”
“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed with the upmost importance. Simply ignoring the issue or sweeping it under the rug is as bad as participating in the jokes yourself. What’s more, failing to deal with the issue effectively and allowing the problem to escalate can lead to possible Employment Tribunals.
“Whilst the more overt instances of sexism for women and men are more notable, including jokes or remarks apart physical appearance, managers and colleagues can also fall into the trap of more subtle forms of sexism. Female employers have reported being given less important tasks such as office housekeeping, whereas men have heard management and colleagues of both sexes describe a physically strenuous task as ‘man’s work’.”
Price Concludes, “Regardless of who is the subject of the joke or remark, all workers should be treated equally and deserve respect based on their level of skill and not their gender. Employers should act as advocates of the workplace culture, demonstrating that no form of sexism will be tolerated whether that is an indecent remark, joke or assigning tasks based on ridiculous notions of what a man or woman can do. Employers and management should use their platforms to see that sexism in the workplace becomes a thing of the past, creating a positive outlook for the future of business.”