More than half (52%) of women, and nearly two-thirds (63%) of women aged 18-24 years old, said they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a new research from the TUC in collaboration with the Everyday Sexism Project published today (Wednesday).
The study is the largest of its kind for a generation and cited by leading academic Dr Jane Pillinger as one of the most extensive pieces of research on sexual harassment at work in Europe.
It was carried out by YouGov and is based on the opinion of women who are working or who have ever had a job, and were happy to be surveyed about this topic from an overall sample of British adults.
It reveals that of those surveyed:
Sexual harassment at work can take many forms, from suggestive remarks, jokes about a colleague’s sex life, circulating pornography, to inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing, or demands for sexual favours.
In the vast majority of cases (88%), the perpetrator of the sexual harassment was male, and nearly one in five (17%) women reported that it was their line manager, or someone with direct authority over them.
The survey, published today in a joint report with the Everyday Sexism Project called Still just a bit of banter?, also finds that around four out of five (79%) women who said they experienced sexual harassment at work did not tell their employer about what was happening.
Of this group, some thought reporting it would impact negatively on their relationships at work (28%) or on their career prospects (15%), while others were too embarrassed to talk about it (20%) or felt they would not be believed or taken seriously (24%).
The study is also the first to include the opinion of women who identify as black, minority and ethnic origin (BME) who say they have been harassed at work. More than half (52%) said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
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 seriously. It’s a scandal that so few women feel their bosses are dealing with the issue properly.
“Anyone worried about inappropriate behaviour at work should join a union to make sure they are protected and respected at work.”
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.
“These findings reveal the shameful extent of the problem and the reality of the touching, unwanted advances, and inappropriate comments women find themselves confronted with while simply trying to do their jobs.
“This is shameful behaviour that has no place in 2016 and employers need to take urgent action to tackle the problem.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Still just a bit of banter? is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/SexualHarassmentreport2016.pdf
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. From an overall sample of 3,524 GB adults, 1,533 GB Adult Women were happy to be asked about workplace harassment. Of this, 801 GB women who are or have ever been in paid work said they have ever experienced some form of workplace harassment. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4-6 January 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures are not weighted or representative of all those who have experienced workplace harassment but obtained from those who consented to be asked questions of this topic.
- The TUC has also published a Know Your Rights leaflet about sexual harassment which is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Protection_From_Sexual_Harassment_2016_Know_Your_Rights_Booklet_LR.pdf
and a guide for union reps is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/sexualharassmentguideforreps.pdf
- Dr Jane Pillinger is a Dublin-based independent researcher and social policy advisor. She provides policy advice for European and international organisations and social partner bodies across Europe and internationally on social policy, gender equality, labour market issues and migration. She said: “The TUC’s survey on sexual harassment is one of the biggest surveys carried in Europe on women’s experiences of sexual harassment at work. The survey results shows the enormity of this issue which is so often invisible and under-reported – it points to the need for changes in attitudes towards women and for comprehensive workplace policies to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.”
- In response to these findings, the Everyday Sexism Project is launching a new platform, www.shoutingback.org.uk which will bring together in one place for the first time information about legal rights, reporting options and available support for women experiencing workplace sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and abuse.
- The TUC and the Everyday Sexism Project are calling on the government to take action against sexual harassment and adopt a series of measures including:
The TUC has also wants employers to take the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace seriously and to ensure robust policies and training are in place to protect staff.
Some of the testimonies on the Everyday Sexism Project website show how undermining sexual harassment – which can often take place in front of other colleagues – can be:
- For more information about the Everyday Sexism Project please visit www.everydaysexism.com
- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @The_TUC and follow the TUC press team @tucnews