Many UK Women Experience, Witness Sexual Harassment at Work

Many UK Women Experience, Witness Sexual Harassment at Work

In a survey of UK women released this week by the law firm Slater and Gordon, 37 percent reported that they had personally been sexually harassed at work within the past 12 months, while 39 percent said they had witnessed a colleague being harassed, Personnel Today reports:

Fifty-two per cent said their employer had not taken any action to combat sexual harassment, while 56% said their organisation did not have a sexual harassment policy, or were not aware of one. Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and the allegations made against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein increasing awareness of the problem, 28% claimed they still had a predatory male colleague or boss who harassed female members of staff.

Although the survey found only 21% of victims came forward about harassment, employment lawyer Clare Armstrong said Slater and Gordon had seen an increase in the number of people getting in contact about the issue.

As to why so few victims come forward, another survey published earlier this month by the Young Women’s Trust found that among women ages 18-30, 24 percent would be reluctant to report sexual harassment out of fear of losing their jobs, while another 17 percent expressed fear of having their hours cut. Fifteen percent of young women said they had been sexually harassed at work and chosen not to report it, while 32 percent said they didn’t know how to report harassment to their employer.

Findings like these underline the urgent need for employers provide a more supportive environment for sexual harassment victims to come forward, one legal expert commented to People Management:

Sarah Chilton, partner at CM Murray, warned that, while instances of sexual harassment at work amounted to victimisation under the Equality Act, many organisations failed to make this clear through workplace policy and cultures.

“Organisations need to really look at their harassment policies – if they don’t have one in place, that needs to change,” she told People Management. “They should look at how they operate in practice and whether their policies are accessible or not. “It’s all very well having a law covering victimisation, but not every employee will know that law exists, and not every employer may act appropriately regarding potential victimisations.”

This post is published for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on the legal matters discussed within. Employers should consult their general counsel whenever they have questions pertaining to laws, regulations, or potential liabilities.