Sexual harassment of nurses is too often ‘brushed aside as a misunderstanding’

Congress wants employers to provide more protection for staff

Congress wants employers to provide more protection for staff

Zeba Arif said employers’ existing policies do not extend far enough. Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses need better protection from sexual harassment by patients and visitors, congress has heard.

Members at the meeting passed a resolution for RCN council to lobby employers to protect healthcare professionals from such behaviour.

Lack of action

One speaker said a patient threatened to rape her, yet no action was taken when she reported the incident to her employer and the police.

Another said a patient remarked it was ‘a shame’ she was wearing her uniform because her breasts would look better in a dress.

Harassment is not ‘an occupational hazard’

Zeba Arif from the RCN’s outer north west London branch, which proposed the resolution, said that despite most healthcare employers having policies in place to tackle allegations of sexual harassment against colleagues, these did not extend far enough.

‘Often, employers miss out on protecting staff from sexual harassment by patients, or their friends or families,’ she said.

'Many organisations view sexual harassment as an occupational hazard, much like a bad back – but sexual harassment is traumatic.

‘All too often harassment by patients is brushed aside as a misunderstanding.’

Danielle Tiplady.
Picture: John Houlihan

A 2018 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested that employers were failing to protect their staff from sexual harassment, and that many people were being ‘silenced by toxic workplace cultures and very real fears about victimisation’.

Danielle Tiplady of the inner north east London branch said putting in place a policy alone was not enough for workplaces, and said there needed to be a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.

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