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7 in 10 say #MeToo has allowed people to be more open about sexual harassment, TUC poll reveals
  • But TUC says government is “dragging its feet” on changing the law to prevent sexual harassment
  • Union body wants new legal duty placed on employers

7 in 10 (68%) people think the #MeToo movement has allowed people to be more open about sexual harassment, according to a new TUC poll published today.

This number is highest amongst women (72%) and young people (78%).

But the TUC says that despite higher levels of awareness, cases of sexual harassment remain alarmingly high.

The union federation is today calling on the government to introduce a legal duty on employers to actively prevent sexual harassment at work.

The call comes as the TUC’s annual HeartUnions week celebrating the work of unions kicks off today. The theme this year is ending sexual harassment at work.

Sexual harassment

TUC research found that more than half (52%) of women – and nearly two-thirds (63%) of young women aged 18-24 years old – have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Around 45,000 young women in the West Midlands joined the workforce in the last year, and there are now more than 145,000 young women in work in the region.

The TUC says the law on sexual harassment must be changed urgently to stop any more people being harassed.

Changing the law

There is no legal requirement for employers to prevent sexual harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, it is up to the victim to report it after it has happened.

The TUC wants the law changed so employers have a legal duty to make sure that their workplaces are harassment-free – by taking simple preventative steps like carrying out mandatory training for all staff and managers, and having clear policies. 

This would shift the burden of dealing with sexual harassment from individuals to employers. And would change workplace cultures and stop the problem once and for all, says the TUC.

Consultation response delay

The government was due to publish its response to its consultation on changing the law on sexual harassment last month. But it has now been delayed.

TUC Regional Secretary Lee Barron said: “The #MeToo movement has helped people speak more openly about sexual harassment. That’s a good a thing.

“But talking about the problem isn’t going to fix it. The government must stop dragging its feet and change the law.

“Employers, not victims, should be responsible for tackling harassment at work.

“We’re calling on everyone who wants to stop sexual harassment to join us this HeartUnions week, and demand ministers take action now.”

A TUC alliance – backed by more than 30 organisations including the Fawcett Society, Imkaan, Amnesty International UK, Stonewall and Time’s Up UK – has launched a petition calling on the government to change the law. 

This week during HeartUnions, workers are stepping up and taking action – where employers and the government have failed to – working with union reps to lead on preventative action in their workplaces.

Editors note

Notes to editors:
- HeartUnions week is taking place this week (10-16 February 2020). It’s a week of activity throughout England and Wales that highlights the good work that unions do every day to offer everyone a voice at work. For more information about the activity taking place this week please visit:
- The total sample size for the poll was 2,198 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 6th February 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
- The TUC alliance petition has been signed by nearly 12,000 people and can be found at:
- TUC research on sexual harassment is available at:
- TUC research on the sexual harassment of LGBT people is available at:
- Number of young women (age 18-24) joining the UK labour market in the last year:


Total number of female employees age 18-24

Number of females age 18-24 not in a work a year ago

North East



North West



Yorkshire and the Humber



East Midlands



West Midlands



East of England






South East



South West









Northern Ireland






Source: Labour Force Survey figures from Q2 2019.
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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