One in 12 Lloyd’s of London workers witnessed sexual harassment

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Almost one in 12 workers at Lloyd’s of London have witnessed sexual harassment in the past year, prompting the world’s largest insurance market to accelerate measures to improve its culture.

A survey commissioned by Lloyd’s following reports of sexual misconduct in the insurance sector found only 45% of workers felt comfortable enough to raise a concern in the Lloyd’s market – where insurers and brokers meet to do business – and only 41% of those who did speak up felt they were listened to and taken seriously.

A fifth said they had seen people in their organisation “turn a blind eye” to inappropriate behaviour.

Lloyd’s chief executive, John Neal, said: “I am determined that we create a working environment at Lloyd’s where everyone feels safe, valued and respected. Cultural change takes time, but we have to accelerate progress and the measures announced today are intended to do just that.

“The vast majority of people working at Lloyd’s are as committed as I am to taking the action we need to drive measurable results.”

Reports of sexual harassment at firms that operate within Lloyd’s emerged earlier this year. Insurance broker Guy Carpenter & Co took action after a senior vice president made a sexual reference to a female employee in an email to colleagues, while two executives at Tokio Marine Kiln Group resigned after allegations that one had groped a female colleague while another bombarded another woman with text messages and emails.

Lloyd’s said it would develop a gender balance plan that sets clear and measurable targets for improving the representation of women at senior levels within the Lloyd’s market. One in five survey respondents did not believe men and women were given equal opportunities.

More than 6,000 people responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Banking Standards Board. It was sent to 45,000 people who work at Lloyd’s, including underwriters and brokers working for 100 insurers and broking firms and 1,000 staff directly employed by Lloyd’s.

The organisation also intends to set “standards of business conduct”, which would require every person and organisation operating in the Lloyd’s market to act with integrity, be respectful towards others and speak up if they witness or experience inappropriate behaviour.

A culture dashboard will also be developed to monitor progress against key metrics of a healthy working culture. Four in 10 survey respondents said they felt under excessive pressure to perform at work, while 23% said that working at their organisation had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Cultural change takes time, but we have to accelerate progress and the measures announced today are intended to do just that.” – John Neal, Lloyd’s

An independent advisory group formed of cultural transformation experts will be appointed to ensure the insurance market is taking the right actions to address cultural issues.

Jonathan Richards, CEO of HR software provider Breathe, said the survey’s findings highlighted the impact a “toxic” workplace culture can have on staff.

“Lloyd’s has a tough job on their hands to turn this around as once a culture has formed in an organisation it’s incredibly hard to change it, especially a large one,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes or magic formulas when it comes to culture; it takes time and effort from the CEO to develop and nourish it into something positive.

“This should act as a cautionary tale for business owners to realise that culture isn’t a soft option. It has to be designed from the offset, not left to flounder, as it has a clear impact not just on business success, but on the economy and our society too.”

Earlier this year Lloyd’s developed a five-point action plan to tackle bullying and harassment in the insurance sector. This included the provision of a confidential advice line to assist those experiencing inappropriate behaviour at work; confirmation that perpetrators will face sanctions from their own employers and from Lloyd’s; a comprehensive review of policies and practices across the market; provision of training focused on preventing bullying and harassment; and the culture survey.

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