Sexual harassment rife in British workplace, but women too scared to speak up

© Reuters
Two thirds of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a new survey.

A quarter said they had been touched inappropriately and one in eight said someone had tried to kiss them.

The survey of 1,500 women also found that a third complained about unwelcome jokes, and 25 percent said they had been on the receiving end of sex-related comments about their bodies or clothes.

The research was carried out by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in conjunction with the Everyday Sexism Project, founded by Laura Bates.

In nine out of 10 incidents, the perpetrator was male, with 17 percent of respondents saying their line manager or someone with direct authority over them was to blame.

Most women (79 percent) who said they had experienced sexual harassment did not tell their employer for reasons that included fear of damaging their work relationships (28 percent) or career prospects (15 percent).

Nearly a quarter (24 percent) said they did not report the abuse because they felt it would not be believed or taken seriously, and a fifth said they were too embarrassed.

Young women reported higher rates of harassment, with nearly two thirds (63 percent) of the 138 women surveyed who were aged between 18 and 24 saying they had been sexually harassed.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said sexual harassment is “undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health.”

Victims are often left feeling ashamed and frightened and it has no place in a modern workplace or in wider society,” she said.

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.”

Bates of Everyday Sexism said employers need to take “urgent action” to tackle the problem.

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,” she said.