Many people may have thought that sexual harassment in the workplace was a thing of the past, but findings from a TUC survey have prompted their Head, Frances O’Grady, to declare that it is “…alive and well.”

The TUC commissioned a survey of 1,553 women and results published this week showed that just over half, 52%, had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. One third of the women had experienced ‘unwelcome jokes’ and one quarter had been the victim of ‘unwanted touching’.

Many women feel that people in authority at their workplace are doing little to deal with the issue, and Ms O’Grady claimed that women feel “ashamed and frightened” while at work, when they simply want to do their job and be respected. The results firmly show that sexual harassment is not simply ‘banter’ in the workplace, but is undermining, humiliating and can lead to mental health issues.

Sexual harassment can take many forms, such as comments, jokes, touching, hugging, kissing and demands. Of course in extreme cases this can lead to rape and serious sexual assault. In legal terms, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination, which in addition to the personal suffering experienced as a result, can also lead to issues with promotions at work and prejudice with regards to redundancy issues and training and development opportunities.

The TUC survey findings revealed that in nine out of ten cases, the perpetrator of sexual harassment in the workplace was male, although it should be noted that males can also be the victim. 17% of women said their line manager or someone in direct authority was responsible for the harassment, and this can lead to damaging implications in terms of how a victim deals with the issue.

It was found that a massive 79% of women failed to inform their employer when they were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. This may be because a significant number of victims are in the 16-24 age bracket, and therefore, often on casual contracts and in junior roles. In general, many reasons were given for failing to report incidents of sexual harassment, but the most revealing were:

  • 28% because it might affect their relationships at work
  • 15% because it might affect their career prospects
  • 24% because of a fear they would not be believed
  • 20% because they were too embarrassed.

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace should report the incident immediately, and collect evidence, if possible. They should also speak to their human resource department and seek legal advice as to how to proceed, often this will lead to a case being pursued.

At Ison Harrison, we have staff with years of experience in employment law and how to deal with cases of sexual harassment and subsequent discrimination at work. Our highly knowledgeable staff will take a sympathetic approach to your case and use their expertise to offer practical advice, always taking into account your individual circumstances.

Call us on 0113 2845000 to speak to a sexual harassment legal specialist today.

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