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The Lloyd’s of London boss has described as “truly terrible” the findings of a survey which showed that nearly 500 people working in the insurance market have either suffered or observed sexual harassment in the past 12 months.
The survey, conducted by the Banking Standards Board on behalf of Lloyd’s after news reports of bullying and harassment, found that “the experience of women is much less positive than it is for men”. Lloyd’s is the world’s biggest and oldest insurance market.
Lloyd’s set up a bullying and harassment helpline in April, after Bloomberg reported evidence from 18 women of widespread sexual harassment ranging from inappropriate remarks to physical assault, and commissioned the survey to gauge the scale of the problems.
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More than 6,000 people responded to the survey, which was sent out to the 45,000 people who work at Lloyd’s. This includes thousands of brokers and underwriters working for 100 insurers and 300 broking firms, as well as 1,000 staff directly employed by Lloyd’s. Overall, the gender balance is 50-50, although the ratio worsens for more senior roles. Of the corporation’s top leaders, only 34% are women.
Lloyd’s said 8% of respondents to the survey – about 480 people – had either encountered sexual harassment themselves or witnessed it happening to others in the past year.
John Neal, the chief executive, said: “That’s pretty stark and totally unacceptable. The survey is validating in a pretty ugly way the issues that were raised six months ago.” He said he was “both upset and disappointed” at the findings.
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An industry insider described Lloyd’s as a “meat market”, while the shadow City minister Jonathan Reynolds labelled it “institutionally sexist”.
Neal vowed to stamp out the problems within three to five years and said he would “be very disappointed if we didn’t make significant progress in the next 12 months”.
“I am determined that we create a working environment at Lloyd’s where everyone feels safe, valued and respected,” he said. “Cultural change takes time, but we have to accelerate progress and the measures announced today are intended to do just that.”
The report also showed one in five working at Lloyd’s do not believe people have equal opportunities.
More than 20% said they had seen people in their organisation turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour, nearly a quarter had observed excessive consumption of alcohol in the Lloyd’s market and a similar number said working at their firms had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
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In response to the report, Lloyd’s set out further measures to tackle the problems. These include a “gender balance plan” setting clear, measurable targets and new “standards of business conduct”.
Lloyd’s has already threatened lifetime bans for individuals found guilty of improper behaviour, and fines or bans for the firms that employ them.
In recent months it has imposed temporary bans on a number of individuals for being drunk or making inappropriate remarks.
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