Guy Bell / CARE: Participants at the #March4Women event in London
Ending violence and harassment in the workplace: on International Women’s Day, leading companies join CARE in calling for an international treaty to protect women at work.
On International Women’s Day, Avon, Diageo and Marks and Spencer published a letter with CARE International UK calling for an international treaty to protect women at work. The letter, set out below, was signed by Amy Greene, VP Investor and Stakeholder Relations, Avon, Mairead Nayager, Chief HR Officer, Diageo, Fiona Sadler, Head of Ethical Trade, Marks and Spencer, and Laurie Lee, CEO, CARE International UK.
As the world marks International Women’s Day, we are reminded of the great strides that have been made towards achieving gender equality. However, we also recognise that much more needs to be done to truly achieve equality as envisaged in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We, the undersigned representatives of some of the world’s leading businesses, publicly reaffirm our commitment to use our access and resources to support progress towards gender equality.
One of the biggest obstacles to equality is gender-based violence, which disproportionally affects women and girls. The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in three women around the world will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime.
Violence and harassment also persist in the workplace. 40% of women in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace.Finding ways to prevent and better respond to gender-based violence is high on the agenda of many businesses: not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because there is a clear business case for taking action. Violence and harassment reduces productivity, increases employee cost and turnover and creates reputational risk. Productivity losses due to sexual harassment in the Cambodian garment industry amounts to USD 89 million every year.
To truly move the needle on ending gender-based violence we need global action. Over one-third of countries still do not have any laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work. An international standard is needed which will compel governments and employers around the world to provide workers with protection against violence and harassment.
That is why we call on our governments and representative employer organisations to support the new International Labour Organisation Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. A strong and progressive ILO Convention and accompanying Recommendation are needed as the first step to building global accountability on this issue. The final round of negotiations on this Convention will take place at the International Labour Conference in June. We urge all parties to the Conference to increase their efforts to reach agreement on a robust and inclusive new international labour standard which will help eradicate this unacceptable behaviour.
 World Health Organisation and others (2013), Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/
 ComRes (2017), BBC - Sexual harassment in the workplace 2017, https://www.comresglobal.com/polls/bbc-sexual-harassment-in-the-work-place-2017/
 CARE international (2017), ‘I know I cannot quit’: The prevalence and productivity cost of sexual harassment to the Cambodian garment industry, https://insights.careinternational.org.uk/media/k2/attachments/SHCS_Full_Technical_Report_March_2017.pdf
 Social Work Today (2017), Nearly 235 million women worldwide lack legal protections from sexual harassment at work, https://www.socialworktoday.com/news/dn_111317.shtml
This letter was previously published on the CARE International UK website, and is reproduced with permission