Toggle high contrast

Sexual harassment of LGBT people in the workplace

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
- Perpetrators and location of sexual harassment

Characteristics of perpetrators

The research asked respondents who had experienced sexual harassment at work to describe who had carried out the most recent incident.

Figure 9
Figure 9: Thinking of the most recent incident of unwanted sexual behaviour at work, who did this to you?

For the majority of respondents, (70 per cent) the most recent harasser was a colleague.

Respondents were fairly evenly split in terms of how closely they worked with the person who harassed them; 26 per cent reporting the most recent harasser was a colleague they worked closely with and 28 per cent reporting being harassed by a colleague they did not work closely with.

Around one in eight people (12 per cent) had been harassed by their direct manager or another manager.

Manager example:


The manager would make inappropriate comments, touch my breasts, bottom and stroke my clothing in my genital area… He targeted people he viewed as being weak so the disabled, long-term unemployed and BME people.

36- to 45-year-old, BME, bisexual, woman, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey

Colleague example:


I was with a colleague who was asking about my same-sex partner (and husband) who is 16 years older than me. My colleague felt it appropriate to ask questions like “how does that work then?” They also asked me if I use any of the apps such as Grindr and if I have ever met anyone from them and done anything. It made me feel very uncomfortable.


35- to 44-year-old, gay, disabled, man

Third-party harassment

One in five (20 per cent) respondents who had experienced sexual harassment told us their most recent harasser was a third party, such as a customer, client or patient, supplier or contractor.


I heard a supplier contractor making suggestive comments about gays wanting sex all the time and that ‘they’ would do it with anyone if given the chance.

45- to 54-year-old, gay, man

“I work in a pub. A few regulars seem to be fascinated by the intimate details of my sex life, often asking questions about it. Once had a customer, who I was asking to leave, call me a faggot and threaten to sodomise me with a pool cue.” 19- to 25-year-old, gay, man, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey

Where the harassment is perpetrated by a client or customer, the person experiencing the harassment may feel it is even harder to act and that they have less protection from their employer. 22 

Where the harassment took place

We asked respondents who had experienced sexual harassment at work where the most recent incident had happened.

  • 22. TUC (2016) Still Just a Bit of Banter? Sexual harassment in the workplace
Figure 10
Figure 10: Thinking of the most recent incident of unwanted sexual behaviour at work, where did this happen?

The majority of respondents said they had been sexually harassed on work premises
(63 per cent). However, around one in ten (11 per cent) reported being harassed at a work-related social event, such as a Christmas or client party.

Around one in twelve (eight per cent) reported the harassment took place at another location for work reasons, for example at a conference.

“A male colleague attempted to grope and kiss me when drunk at a work party – he did not and does not know I am gay.” 26- to 36-year-old, lesbian, gender – other, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey

One in twenty LGBT workers reported being sexually harassed on a work visit, for example in a patient or client’s place of work or home. The same proportion reported the harassment was online, for example by email or on social media.