The terrible kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard while walking home in South London has been a significant trigger of both grief and anger around violence and harassment towards women, and the demands for change. There is a real sense from so many women that enough is enough. 

Over the last week and a half many women have shared their own stories and experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and being made to feel scared and unsafe in public spaces. Women should be safe to live their lives without fear and to know that their communities and neighbourhoods are properly protected. 

Sadly, this tragic incident is another reminder that exclusion, sexual harassment, and violence remains prevalent within our society, in public spaces but also in private domains and within our workplaces too.  

This event will have left many women feeling more vulnerable and anxious, and for some will have served as a reminder of previous traumatic experiences. It’s likely that many of our female colleagues will be feeling like this, so it's vital they know where they can go to for help and support. Men must also be part of the solution and not just the problem, so this is also a time to show allyship, understanding and compassion.  

Employee assistance programmes, Occupational Health and specialist charities, as well as employee resource groups, can provide a lifeline of support at times like this, as can informal support networks and creating space for safe conversations. We need to increase all our efforts in creating physically and emotionally safe and supportive workplaces and organisational cultures.  Our practical guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace provides support on tackling harassment and bullying at work and our guidance on managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse provides information on taking an active supporting role. 

At the CIPD, these are principles we have long committed to. Our purpose of championing better work and working lives has the ideas of inclusion, equality, wellbeing and fair opportunity for all at it’s heart.  As people professionals we have an important role to play, and the more we support our people, the more they will be able to give their best. These are also the vital dimensions of good work and sustainable and responsible business.  In turn, business must be part of improving society and the kinds of societal issues we have again sadly all been reminded of.  

About the author

Peter Cheese

Peter is the CIPD’s chief executive. He writes and speaks widely on the development of HR, the future of work, and the key issues of leadership, culture and organisation, people and skills.

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