FTSE 100 companies told to address sexual harassment or face legal action



Mary Sharpe

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to the chairs of the FTSE 100 and other large companies last month stating it will take legal action where there is evidence of systemic failure to prevent, or deal with, sexual harassment.

The move came about in response to the Hollywood and Westminster sexual harassment scandals, and the #MeToo campaign.

The EHRC has asked companies to supply evidence of:

  • what safeguards they have in place to prevent sexual harassment
  • what steps they have taken to ensure that all employees are able to report instances of harassment without fear of retribution, and
  • how they plan to prevent harassment in the future

But some experts have suggested companies also need to address the use of internet pornography, which could be compounding the problem of sexual harassment.

The head of an educational charity that investigates the impact of internet pornography on health, attainment, relationships and criminality explained the link between internet pornography and sexual harassment.

Mary Sharpe, non-practising advocate and chief executive of The Reward Foundation, told our sister publication, Scottish Legal News: “Internet pornography is a contributory factor to the increasing incidence of sexual harassment in society. The World Health Organisation is poised to introduce it into a new category of mental health disorders called “compulsive sexual behaviour disorder” later this year.

“According to research using brain scans, even just moderate use of internet pornography, three hours per week, can cause substantial depletion of the grey matter in the executive part of the brain.

“That’s the part that enables us to inhibit more primitive impulsive and aggressive behaviour. It’s where we feel compassion for others. Hence a porn habit can be a driver for sexual harassment. Quitting porn allows the grey matter to grow back again in this key part of the brain.”

She added: “As an educational charity, we can be part of the solution. Our workshop called ‘The impact of internet pornography on mental and physical health’ has been accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

“We run these for healthcare professionals, including those in HR and occupational health. Organisations need to consider including internet pornography in their policies and training as they do with alcohol and drugs misuse. It has a similar impact on the brain.”