The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has reported a recent increase in its members seeking advice and guidance around incidents of sexual harassment.

Though it said this does not necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of incidents, and could be due to more awareness and confidence among members about reporting incidents.

It suggested that this may have been helped by awareness campaigns, ‘safe spaces’ to discuss the issue and high-profile cases recently covered in the media.

The PDA condemned sexual harassment as ‘unacceptable in any situation’ and said it was working with other unions and stakeholders to combat the issue.

In particular, PDA members are calling for employers to be ‘more proactive’ in working to prevent sexual harassment, and ‘to do more than rely on the current legislation, which requires the victim to report an incident of sexual harassment’,  Ayah Abbass, president of the PDA’s National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) Network wrote in a post on the association’s website.

Employers should also have zero tolerance for sexually harassing behaviour in the workplace, including sexual jokes, staring and sexual comments on appearance in person and on social media, even if they are perceived as ‘banter’, she said.

Ms Abbass highlighted advice from the Fawcett Society, which the PDA is affiliated with, which says that sustainable change requires a holistic approach from employers, including ‘culture, policy, training, reporting mechanisms and the way employers and managers respond to reports of sexual harassment’.

And she noted that while the majority of people that report incidents of sexual harassment are women, ‘it is an intersectional issue and can happen to all demographics of workers’.

Ms Abbass cited a 2019 report from the Trades Union Congress that found that almost seven in 10 people from the LGBT+ community have been sexually harassed at work, with the highest levels reported against people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds and those who are disabled.

Jayne Love, PDA equalities lead, said: ‘We need to work together on eradicating sexual harassment as it is prevalent not just in workplaces but also in wider society.

‘It is an intersectional issue which requires a joined-up approach, so it is important to work together with others within the trade union movement as well as relevant organisations to actively promote zero tolerance of sexual harassment.’

The PDA directed members to the PDA Member Support Centre for advice and support about sexual harassment, and to charity Pharmacist Support for help with wellbeing.