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Female UK Ambulance Staff Sexually Harassed

An ambulance trust of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has recently come under fire with the news that female ambulance staff faced frequent sexual predation, as well as the news that some students were even “groomed for sex” by mentors.

Reportedly, the South East Coast Ambulance Trust (SECAmb) showed extremely “sexualized behavior” within the staff, and sexual favors were incorporated into various parts of the management structure.

Female staff claimed they had been hounded for sexual favors in exchange for promotions, or regularly touched or harassed without consent. This happened to the point where many female staff members believed that it was the norm to receive demeaning remarks or behavior.

“Several female staff felt that such behaviours were the norm, with some stating ‘my arse was slapped regularly’ and others who felt they were demeaned by highly sexualised gazing in front of colleagues and even patients,” stated the independent report that brought this scandal to light.

Attention was raised over the situation when a 69 page report, by Professor Duncan Lewis at the Plymouth University, revealed that 42 percent of the 2,000 surveyed staff members said that they had been bullied within the last year, 50 percent had been disrespected, and 30 percent felt “threatened or intimidated.” Focus group interviews revealed that very few women held senior officer roles, and that executive management rarely interacted with employees. Even those who had worked for nearly 30 years reported little to no contact, as well as frequently changing leadership.

One of the most striking and troublesome issues that surveyed staff members reported was the managerial “boys’ club,” which maintained a toxic workplace culture, and allegedly often prevented women from rising in rank unless their “face fit.” When it came to dealing with this harassment, there was a fear about speaking out against coworkers, along with an unresponsive and unkind HR department that often did nothing to properly address complaints of such behavior.

According to BBC, Professor Lewis’ independent report urges higher management at SECAmb to step in, recommending more prominent roles for directors, and enhanced training. In regards to the report, Chief Executive Daren Mochrie has said, “The behaviors it describes are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated, in any sense and at any level, moving forward.” The SECAmb Chairman conveyed much of the same sentiment, stating that the board did not tolerate such behavior, and that the board would work to change the workplace.

In the United Kingdom, sexual harassment in the workplace is considered unlawful discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. Entities, such as the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS), exist to aid victims as a helpline for discrimination, and to help them determine how they might pursue legal action.

Still, a 2016 survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents over 5.6 million British workers, reported that over half of working women in Britain are sexually harassed at work. The issue of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, though more prominent in cases such as the South East Coast Ambulance Trust, is greater and more common than it might seem.

Featured Image by ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd. on  Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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