Ikea told to tackle sexual harassment after UK complaint
Ikea has been told to protect its staff in the UK from sexual harassment following concerns over how it handled an allegation from a former employee at one of its stores.
It is the latest household name to sign such an agreement, after a similar move by McDonald’s last month.
The UK equality watchdog told the BBC that it was rare to take this kind of action.
Ikea said it did “not tolerate harassment of any kind”.
The Swedish furniture giant has around 12,000 employees in the UK.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) first got involved with Ikea in February last year, after being made aware of an allegation of sexual harassment and assault in one of its UK stores. It was also alleged that the complaint was not appropriately handled by management.
It is understood that the person who made the complaint no longer works at Ikea.
Since then, the EHRC has been working with Ikea to improve its policies and practices relating to sexual harassment.
Ikea has now signed a legal agreement with the EHRC that commits it to an action plan to help protect its staff in the UK.
Measures include communicating a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, providing anti-harassment training for staff, and improving its responses to complaints.
The equality watchdog will now monitor Ikea to check if it is complying with the law. If it finds evidence it is not, it will investigate.
The agreement is likely to last until August 2025.
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the EHRC, said that by signing this agreement, Ikea had “taken an important step” towards ensuring its staff are better protected from harassment.
“Every employer has a duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace,” she told the BBC.
“I’m sure it isn’t a comfortable place for any employer to be in, when we come in and tell them that they’re not doing what they need to be doing, but Ikea have agreed to do this.”
Baroness Falkner said that the EHRC doesn’t undertake such agreements lightly. But when they do take action, they do so “specifically to ensure employers have the right tools that they give employees to protect them in the workplace”.
Darren Taylor, country people and culture manager at Ikea UK & Ireland, said the company had “robust policies and procedures in place” to protect staff.
“However, we also recognise and welcome opportunities to review and strengthen our approaches even further,” he said, adding the firm would continue to work with the EHRC to ensure “the best possible working environment”.
Watchdog steps in
Last month, the fast food chain McDonald’s pledged to protect workers after a string of sexual harassment complaints made by workers in the UK.
One former employee, Christine, told the BBC that a McDonald’s manager exposed himself in front of her when she was working at a South London branch of McDonald’s in 2018.
McDonald’s said Christine’s experiences were “completely unacceptable”.
The equality watchdog has also previously intervened in companies including Sainsbury’s and National Highways.