Yes, it does happen.

I recently received a call to the Tell Jane hotline from an employee reporting a male colleague for taking a photograph underneath a female colleague’s skirt.

Upskirting does happen in the workplace.

This revelation is often met with both shock and horror at such an outrageous act of violation being carried in a professional setting, while at the same time seeming acceptance of its probability.

Upskirting occurs in bars, restaurants and schools – and let’s not forget in the early 2000s tabloid newspapers were awash with photographs of female celebrities’ knickers as they entered and exited vehicles – so why would the workplace be exempt?

And, most importantly, why do people do it? It’s seems to me to be the thrill of “getting away with it”, the secrecy of the indecency, coupled with the thrill of the risk at getting caught. Action and voyeurism.

Or, to summarise in one word: power.

It comes back to power of one over another – the main motivator for harassment. See our blog here on the science of sexual harassment and power for greater insight.

So what should you do if someone reports this as occurring in your workplace?

Upskirting is a specific offence in Scotland, but not currently in England and Wales. However, the introduction of new legislation in a Private Member’s Bill by Wera Hobhouse MP is set to make upskirting a criminal offence. The new law will bring punishment for upskirting in line with existing voyeurism offences and see offenders face up to two years in prison.

So we’re talking about a criminal act here, and incidences of upskirting should therefore be treated as gross misconduct and could be subject to criminal investigation.

Like any report of misconduct in the workplace, this is not a time to panic or shy away from the issue. It’s time to seize the opportunity to redress the power balance in your organisation and adjust the company culture.

Incidences such as this should inspire conversations and positive action.

And what better place to start then talking to Tell Jane? Not only can we support your organisation in independent workplace investigations, we can provide workshops and training programmes to bring your people up to speed on issues surrounding appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviour, as well as help you to start cultivating a culture of openness and respect.


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