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Presidents Club: Thousands sign petition in wake of sexual harassment scandal

Great Ormond Street hospital has said it will be returning previous donations from the Presidents Club after allegations of sexual harassment at the fundraiser 
Ellie Cullen, Press Association

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition set up in the wake of the Presidents Club scandal calling for more protection from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Change.org campaign was started on Wednesday after allegations surfaced that hostesses were groped at the Presidents Club's men-only annual fundraiser.

The petition calls for the reinstatement of Section 40 of the Equality Act, which made employers liable for an employee being harassed by a third party - such as a customer - if the employer did not take reasonable steps to prevent it. The section was repealed in 2013.

The woman who set up the petition claimed to have been a victim of inappropriate behaviour at work, and said she wanted to stop organisations "turning a blind eye" to the issue.

She wrote on the Change.org website: "The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement shows that those who commit sexual harassment can be held accountable by the people who work for or with them.

"But we need to improve the steps that are put in place to make sure perpetrators are held accountable not just by their workplace and society, but by law.

"It's time that Amber Rudd - Minister for Women and Equalities, Baroness Williams - Minister for Equalities, and the government started protecting women from sexual harassment from customers and clients, by re-introducing section 40 of the Equality Act and making sure that employees are protected."

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May told a Westminster briefing: "Any woman who feels she was sexually harassed in the workplace should report it to the police."

Mrs May's spokesman said the PM was looking at the issue of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in light of the controversy.

The spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "Questions have been raised about the operation of NDAs. The prime minister will look into the way these non-disclosure agreements are applied to see if changes are required.

"Issues have been raised and the PM will look into it."

The Presidents Club, which said it was "appalled" by the allegations surrounding the event at London's Dorchester Hotel last week, has announced it will distribute remaining funds to children's charities before shutting down in the wake of the scandal.

Theresa May is set to target gagging orders that prevent women reporting sexual harassment, according to The Times, following reports that hostesses at the event had to sign confidentiality agreements.

Financial Times reporter Madison Marriage, who went undercover as part of the paper's investigation into the event, told BBC Newsnight: "I was groped several times and I know that there are numerous other hostesses who said the same thing had happened to them.

"It's hands up skirts, hands on bums but also hands on hips, hands on stomachs, arms going round your waist unexpectedly."

She added: "I can't believe that it still goes on in 2018, I think it's quite shocking."

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