Survey shows "shocking" levels of sexual harassment of LGBT people at work
17 May 2019
One in five LGBT women who have worked in the past five years have reported being sexually assaulted at work, a survey by the TUC, published on Friday 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, has found.
The survey reported that around seven out of ten LGBT workers experienced at least one type of sexual harassment at work (68 per cent) and almost one in eight LGBT women (12 per cent) reported being seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work. However, this is a hidden problem with two thirds of those who were harassed not reporting it; and one in four of those who did not report the harassment being silenced by fear of ‘outing’ themselves at work. The TUC said:
“Government must act urgently to put the responsibility for tackling this problem where it belongs – with employers. We need stronger legislation that places a new legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, with real consequences for those who don’t comply.”
BME women and disabled men and women reported even higher rates of harassment and sexual assault.
LGBT people told the TUC these experiences had a big impact on their lives. Around one in six (16%) said the sexual harassment at work affected their mental health. A similar proportion (16%) told the TUC that they had left their job because of being sexually harassed – and for one in 25 described the experience as so unbearable that it caused them to leave their job without another job to go to.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said:
“This research reveals a hidden epidemic. In 2019 LGBT people should be safe and supported at work. But instead they’re experiencing shockingly high levels of sexual harassment and assault. Workplace culture needs to change. No one should think that a colleague being LGBT is an invitation for sexualised comments or inappropriate questions – let alone serious acts of assault. Government must change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims. And anyone worried about sexual harassment at work should join a union.”
The TUC has called on the government to:
- Introduce a new duty to prevent harassment.
- Introduce a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work.
- Strengthen legislation to tackle third-party harassment.
- Build on the findings set out in this report by conducting further research.
- Fund specialist services to combat sexual violence and support survivors.
The TUC has called on employers to:
- Make all work policies inclusive.
- Review existing policies.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination and harassment.
The TUC has called on unions to:
- Review their guidance and training.
- Review employer policies on sexual harassment.
- Negotiate robust workplace policies.
- Run workplace campaigns.