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Sexual harassment of LGBT people in the workplace

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
- Reporting sexual harassment

Two thirds of respondents who had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted at work had not reported the most recent incident to their employer.

66% of LGBT people did not report sexual harassment at work
Source: ICM

We asked people why they hadn’t reported being sexually harassed to their employer and let respondents select more than one option in recognition of the fact there might be multiple factors behind their decision.

Figure 11
Figure 11: Reporting of sexual harassment

More than half (57 per cent) chose not to report harassment to their employer because they thought there would be a negative impact on their relationships at work.

More than four in ten (44 per cent) thought there would be a negative impact on their career if they reported the unwanted sexual behaviour to their employer and four in ten did not believe the person responsible for the sexual harassment would be sufficiently punished.

Embarrassment was another prevalent factor behind the decision not to report, with over a third (37 per cent) citing this reason. Around a quarter (26 per cent) did not report being sexually harassed because they did not think they’d be believed. Around one in seven respondents (15 per cent) said they did not know they could report the sexual harassment to their employer.

A quarter of respondents said they didn’t report being sexually harassed because it would have revealed their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

A number of qualitative responses mentioned that the reason they didn’t report being sexually harassed was because they had seen other occasions when harassment of LGBT staff was not taken seriously.

Most people who reported being sexually harassed were dissatisfied with their employer’s response. Only around one in ten (11 per cent) of those who reported being sexually harassed thought it was both taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily.

Around one in twelve (eight per cent) of those who reported thought their complaint was taken seriously but not dealt with satisfactorily and seven per cent reported the sexual harassment but did not think it was taken seriously or dealt with satisfactorily.

Gay men’s experience of reporting

Gay men were less likely than other groups to report their experiences of sexual harassment to their employer.

Around three quarters (72 per cent) of gay men did not report the sexual harassment to their employer compared to 67 per cent* of lesbians/gay women and 62 per cent of bisexuals.

Once I was grabbed by the genitals at a Christmas party by a female colleague. She said it was okay because neither of us have anything to worry about. I wish I had reported it now, but didn’t.

36- to 45-year-old, gay, man, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey

Where gay men had reported their experience of sexual harassment they were less likely than others to say it was taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily.

Only seven per cent of gay men who had reported being sexually harassed said it was it was taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily compared to 13 per cent* of lesbians and 13 per cent of bisexuals.

I reported sexual harassment to work place and nothing was done about it... the perpetrator was asked if he had been indiscreet and he denied it so it was brushed under the carpet.

46- to 55-year-old, gay man, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey

Only around a quarter of respondents (26 per cent) reported the most recent incident of sexual harassment to their employers.

Of those who did report, over four in ten (43 per cent) thought they were treated less well because they had reported the incident.

Figure 12
Figure 12: Reasons for not reporting

Although few of the LGBT workers had reported being sexually harassed to their employer, many more (40 per cent) had confided in someone else. However, around the same proportion (37 per cent) of respondents said they had told no-one about the most recent incident.

 

Figure 13
Figure 13: Responses to the most recent incident of sexual harassment

Union membership and reporting

Union members were more likely to report their experiences of sexual harassment to their employer and say it was taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily.

Around one third (32 per cent) of union members reported their most recent experience of sexual harassment to their employer, compared to 22 per cent of workers who were not union members.

Where union members reported sexual harassment, they were more likely to say it was taken seriously: 27 per cent compared to 15 per cent of workers who were not union members.

Union members also had higher levels of satisfaction with the action that employers took in response to reported sexual harassment. Around one in six (17 per cent) who reported sexual harassment said it was both taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily, compared to eight per cent of workers who were not union members.

Figure 14: Impact
Figure 14: Impact

Impact

Our survey findings revealed the substantial impact that sexual harassment had on LGBT people across a range of measures. One in five said it had made them feel less confident at work. For around one in six people (16 per cent) the impact of the harassment was so severe that it caused them to leave their job. For one in twenty-five the experience was so unbearable it caused them to leave their job without another job to go to.

Around one in six people (16 per cent) said the harassment had a negative effect on their mental health, including making them feel more stressed, anxious, depressed, while four per cent of respondents said the harassment had a negative impact on their physical health.