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A new survey out of Hong Kong has found one in five women claim to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, but almost a third of them did not do anything about the incidents.
According to a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), 19% of 472 female respondents had been sexually harassed at work over the last 12 months, with another 6% admitting they had either witnessed or heard about complaints of sexual harassment.
One third added they did not do anything about the harassment, citing reasons such as they did not think it would help to report the incident (42%), they were not aware of the complaint channels (16%), they did not want to worsen the situation or relation (13%) and they did not have the spare time or energy to take action (10%).
“This phenomenon could be attributed to the lack of company policy statement and training against sexual harassment for employees of the service industries,” said Dr John Tse Wing-ling, convener of the EOC’s policy and research committee.
“The statistics consistently indicate that 90% of the respondents had not received any training on preventing sexual harassment and 83% of them either did not perceive or were not aware of a relevant policy statement in their companies.”
The report also found women working in retail, catering, health care and nursing were most likely to be victims of sexual harassment, often front-line workers who have frequent contact with customers or co-workers.
“The more contact that the service workers have with the customers, the more likely they are to encounter sexual harassment,” the report added.
The EOC is urging the Hong Kong government to amend the country’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance to better protect service providers against sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment can happen at any business and its consequences can be very costly to an employer,” Dr Tse said, adding that through the formulation of an effective sexual harassment policy and the adoption of preventive measures, a company can provide a safe and harassment-free environment for both their employees and customers.