More than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to new research from the TUC and The Everyday Sexism Project.
Fifty-two per cent of women, and 63 per cent of women aged 18 to 24, said that they had been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace in the study carried out by YouGov, the largest of its kind for a generation. The study also revealed that 52 per cent of women who identify as black, minority and ethnic origin have experienced workplace sexual harassment.
Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work, and 28 per cent have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes, the study revealed.
Twenty-three per cent of women surveyed said that they have experienced unwanted touching at work – such as a hand on the knee or lower back – and one-fifth said that they had experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances.
Around one in eight women (12 per cent) said that they have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them at work.
The TUC says that sexual harassment can take many forms – from suggestive remarks, inappropriate touching, to hugging or kissing, or demands for sexual favours.
In 88 per cent of cases, the perpetrator of the harassment was male. Nearly one in five (17 per cent) of women surveyed reported that the perpetrator was either their line manager of someone with direct authority over them.
The survey also found that 79 per cent of women who experienced sexual harassment at work did not tell their employer about what was happening. Of these women, some believed that reporting it would impact negatively on their relationships at work (28 per cent), or on their career prospects (15 per cent). Others were too embarrassed to talk about it (20 per cent), while others felt they would not be believed or taken seriously (24 per cent).
The hashtag #HarassedAtWork has this week seen people of all ages, professions and genders share their experiences of harassment in the workplace on Twitter.
TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “How many times do we still hear that sexual harassment in the workplace is just a bit of ‘banter’?
“Let’s be clear – sexual harassment is undermining, humiliating, and can have a huge effect on mental health. Victims are often left feeling ashamed and frightened. It has no place in a modern workplace, or in wider society.
“Employers must be clear they have a zero tolerance attitude to sexual harassment and treat any complaint serious. It’s a scandal that so few women feel their bosses are dealing with the issue properly.”
Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, said: “Many people would like to think that workplace sexual harassment is a thing of the past. In reality, it is alive and well, and having a huge impact on tens of thousands of women’s lives.
“This is shameful behaviour that has no place in 2016 and employers need to take urgent action to tackle the problem.”