The Prison Service has launched a crackdown on sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination as part of an action plan agreed with the equalities watchdog.
The two-year pact with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is in response to the findings of an independent survey conducted last summer on sexual harassment in the service.
The EHRC-commissioned report found that sexual jokes and sexually explicit language were the biggest problem in the service. More than a quarter of staff that experienced inappropriate behaviour said they found it offensive.
The service’s annual staff survey also found that only half of respondents felt that managers effectively challenged this type of behaviour.
The Prison Service has lost several sexual harassment tribunal cases in recent years, raising concerns about the way in which complaints are dealt with by prison governors and other officers.
The action plan includes training for managers in handling complaints effectively, and boosting staff awareness of their responsibilities in challenging unacceptable behaviour.
In a statement, the Prison Service Management Board said: “The service should be a place where people want to work, where staff feel valued and where we all benefit from working in an organisation with a diverse workforce.
“Sexual or racial harassment – or harassment, bullying or victimisation on any grounds – has no place in the service and will not be tolerated.”