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Office sexual harassment policies lag behind the #MeToo movement

  • More than 1 in 5 companies still don't offer sexual harassment training, a study by XpertHR finds.
  • The report says less than a fifth of companies plan to offer bystander training, which teaches people how to respond in instances when they suspect another person at work is being harassed.
  • Nearly 40 percent of companies believe confidentiality should still be a part of sexual harassment agreements, according to the study.
Nora Carol Photography | Getty Images

When sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein came to light, the #MeToo movement took off — and its reach has been far and wide.

Still, it's not exactly taking off in the office, according to one study.

Although 90 percent of companies have a sexual harassment policy in place, more than 1 in 5 still don't offer training to prevent such incidents, according to a report from XpertHR, a human resources consulting firm.

Just 35 percent of surveyed companies plan to implement a new a sexual harassment policy in 2018, while 37 percent will amend their current one.

XpertHR polled more than 500 human resource professionals in February.

"Training is a key aspect to preventing harassment in the workplace," said Jessica Webb-Ayer, legal editor at XpertHR. "It's disconcerting that not as many employers as you'd think have a training process in effect."

But half of companies said the problem of harassment has taken on new importance in 2018.

It's a prevalent problem. Around 14 percent of workers — and 22 percent of women — have been sexually harassed at work, according to the Pew Research Center.

XpertHR also found that less than a fifth of companies plan to offer bystander training in 2018, in which people are taught how to respond if they suspect another person at work is being harassed.

"Not as many employers as you'd think have a training process in effect." -Jessica Webb-Ayer, legal editor at XpertHR

"There are a lot of reasons why victims don't come forward, but if someone else is seeing what's happening then they can report it for them," said Webb-Ayer.

Some victims stay silent because they're legally obliged to do so.

Confidentiality agreements, a common part of sexual harassment settlements, have been in the news as part of the #MeToo movement. But many companies still use them.

Nearly 40 percent of companies in the XpertHR poll still believe confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements should be a part of sexual harassment settlements — and 1 in 5 said they have reached such a settlement during the last five years.