52% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work

More than half of women, and nearly two-thirds (63%) of women aged 18-24 years old, said they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to major new research from the TUC and the Everyday Sexism Project. The study is the largest of its kind for a generation, and reveals that of those surveyed:

  • 32% of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work
  • 28% of women have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work
  • 23% of women have experienced unwanted touching – like a hand on the knee or lower back at work
  • 20% of women have experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances at work
  • 12% women have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them at work.

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.

In most cases (79%) women who experienced sexual harassment at work didn't tell their employer. Some thought reporting it would impact negatively on their relationships at work or on their career prospects, while others were too embarrassed to talk about it or felt they would not be believed or taken seriously.

The TUC's 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.”

if you've experienced sexual harassment at work, or think it's going on where you work, check out our advice section.