British Soldier’s Tragic Death: A Call for Stronger Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws

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Photo Credits - israel palacio via Unsplash

In December 2021, it’s believed that Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley Beck took her own life. A service inquiry report later revealed potential contributors to the unfortunate event, including sexual harassment from her boss. However, the mother of the solider told the BBC how she disagreed with some aspects of the report.

We look at the exact reasons why it’s believed Gunner Beck took her life and what her mother disagrees with. Furthermore, we explore the lack of support women receive when they report sexual harassment and the laws that need improvement.

If you want to report or make a workplace sexual harassment claim, contact Redmans Solicitors. They are experts in employment law, with many years of experience, and could advise you on your next steps.

British Soldier Experienced Unwelcome Behaviour from Boss

The service inquiry report stated that Gunner Beck had experienced “an intense period of unwelcome behaviour” in the months leading to her death. This included thousands of messages and voicemails from her boss.

The BBC reports that Gunner Beck’s boss sought a relationship with her; however, she had a boyfriend and didn’t want the same. They also state that her boss’s controlling messages had previously reduced her to tears and led to her saying, “I can’t handle it any more”. The report outlines that this was undoubtedly a causal factor that subsequently led to her taking her own life.

Even though Ms Beck’s family urged her to report her boss’s actions, she was hesitant. Her mother believes this was caused by the way the army dealt with a previous sexual assault report made on her behalf. Someone reported how one of Gunner Beck’s seniors sexually assaulted her, but the service injury report suggests the correct process wasn’t followed.

READ: Good Medical Practice 2024 on Medical Boundaries and Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment

The report admits the deficiencies shown here could have impacted her failure to report subsequent events. However, the report also suggests that specific relationships, alcohol and family issues could have been contributing factors to her death. Gunner Beck’s mother refuses this reasoning, explaining how she feels the army is trying to partly blame the family for her death.

Ultimately, it seems this tragic event could have been avoided had better protection and reporting procedures been in place. 

Employees Are Hesitant to Report Sexual Harassment

A survey by The Barrister Group has highlighted the shortfalls linked to reporting workplace sexual harassment. The survey found that just under 50% of those who had experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour reported it. Furthermore, of the ones who did, 12% said they had to find another job.

Individuals who didn’t report an incident they experienced explained how they thought they wouldn’t be believed or could even be blamed. This could partly be due to the fact that more than two-thirds of those who experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour said it came from a superior.

READ: Five Months After Signing Protection Agreement, More Than 100 UK McDonald’s Employees
Open Up About Harassment Incidents.

It could also be because a third of those surveyed didn’t believe touching someone’s breasts or making sexual comments about a colleague was wrong. The barrister group highlights that these findings show a need for employers to define what constitutes sexually inappropriate behaviour clearly.

The Worker Protection Bill is Just Step One

The Worker Protection Bill will bestow a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. This is an improvement on the current law, as it creates a new duty of care that employers must adhere to.

However, the Bill has been amended by the House of Lords to:

  • Ensure that employers won’t be liable for third-party harassment
  • Alter an employer’s requirement from taking “all reasonable steps” to just taking “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment

These amendments have been made due to concerns regarding free speech and costly lawsuits for the employer. Lord Hannan of Kingsclere stated that the original Bill went too far for some and needed to go further for others. 

Although this Bill will improve worker’s protection regarding sexual harassment, one could argue that more needs to be done. With both the tragic story of the soldier and the survey conducted by The Barristers Group, consistent shortfalls are highlighted. Inadequate reporting procedures and colleagues abusing their senior positions appear to be a common trend in the workplace. Therefore, a need to legislate to resolve these frequent issues could be suggested.

If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, contact Redmans Solicitors today. With many years of experience helping others in your position, they could support and advise you on how to proceed.

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