More than half of women in the UK have suffered sexual harassment at work. That's according to a new study that finds 63 percent of females 16-24 reported incidents ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Everyday Sexism Project - "Still Just a Bit of Banter?" found that 52 percent of women had experienced "unwanted" behavior - ranging from groping, sexual advances and inappropriate jokes- according to a study released Wednesday.
Around one in eight women reported unwanted sexual touching of their breasts, buttocks or genitals or attempts to kiss them at work, which the report's authors point out would be considered sexual assault under the law. And 1 percent said they had been raped or seriously sexually assaulted in the workplace.
"It's so pervasive because it isn't being talked about," Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, told Reuters. "Women don't feel they are able to come forward, and when they do, it isn't being dealt with at all."
The research showed that almost a fifth had been harassed by a supervisor or someone with authority over them but also that four out of five women did not report the incidents to their employers.
Women working in the manufacturing and hospitality industries were significantly more likely to have experienced such harassment, the research found.
“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 ... It has no place in a modern workplace, or in wider society,” Frances O'Grady, the TUC's general secretary, told The Guardian newspaper.
“There is nothing funny about one in three women being subjected to inappropriate jokes of a sexual nature when they are simply trying to do their jobs," Angela Rayner, the opposition Labour party's equalities spokeswoman. "The law is clear: sexual harassment is discrimination and therefore illegal. Perpetrators must feel the full force of the law.”
Labour and the TUC want to reinstate parts of the Equality Act making employers responsible for protecting staff from harassment by third parties such as customers.
The TUC commissioned online polling from YouGov of 1,553 women who said they would be willing to respond to questions about sexual harassment.
jbh/jar (Reuters Foundation, Guardian)