Employment lawyers at law firm Leigh Day have responded to a study conducted by the TUC into sexual harassment in the workplace as ‘depressingly predictable’ after it found that nearly two-thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed had suffered sexual harassment at work with a third of women of all ages having been subjected to unwelcome jokes, while one in four received sex-related comments about their body or clothes.
The study of 1,500 women found one in four had been subjected to unwanted touching and one in eight said someone had tried to kiss them. They were also still subjected to unwelcome jokes, verbal advances, suggestive remarks and even demands for sexual favours in the workplace.
According to the study in most cases, the perpetrator was male, with nearly one in five women saying it was their line manager, or someone with direct authority over them.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "How many times do we still hear that sexual harassment in the workplace is just a bit of 'banter'?
"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."
Emma Satyamurti from the employment team at Leigh Day said: “The results of this study are depressingly predictable as sexual harassment at work has for too long been paid only lip service to by employers. Too little has been done to eradicate sexism in the workplace, and indeed discrimination against women is often regarded as being more acceptable than other forms of discrimination.
“Many companies fail to properly protect female staff from those who would take advantage of their position at work where unlawful behaviour is often excused, laughed off or ignored. The report highlights that women on insecure contracts, or in junior roles, may be particularly vulnerable to harassment. It is also likely to be particularly hard for such women to report and challenge harassment.”
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, which helped with the report, said: "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.
"Employers need to take urgent action to tackle the problem."