Sexual harassment rife in workplace, study finds

Tom Newcombe , 28 Oct 2013


Nearly two thirds of women have had a male colleague behave "inappropriately" towards them, research by law firm Slater Gordon has found.

A UK study of more than 1,000 women found they are being subjected to sexist attitudes at work with inappropriate, degrading and embarrassing comments often being made about their physical appearance, sex life and the clothes they are wearing.

When it came to inappropriate comments and touching, more than half the offenders were senior members of staff, and two thirds of women said the inappropriate behaviour came from married men.

Of the 24% of women that had a senior member of staff make a move on them, 5% then lost their job and more than one in 10 said they had been turned down for a promotion.

But despite saying the behaviour of their colleagues was often degrading and embarrassing, only 27% reported the behaviour to someone senior.

Claire Dawson, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: "We deal with some really shocking cases of sexual harassment in the workplace but it's always surprising to hear how widespread the issue is and how many women don't feel like they can report behaviour like this.

"We are well in to the 21st century now and the message doesn't seem to have got through to everyone that this just isn't acceptable. Women have a right to go to work without having to fend off unwanted advances or inappropriate behaviour from members of the opposite sex."

Inappropriate behaviour

The study found one in six women had been forced to fend off a colleague who tried to kiss them and 12% had a colleague touch them inappropriately.

The most common places for women to experienced inappropriate behaviour were at their desk while they were working late, at an office party or in a staff corridor or lift.

The research showed that after an incident women often found themselves ignored by the member of staff or even bad-mouthed or embarrassed. One in five women affected said they had wanted to leave their job.

Dawson said: "We see clients who have been blamed for bringing the treatment on themselves because of what they wear or how they are perceived by others, and clients who have been bullied, denied promotion or even physically assaulted when they refuse a colleague's advances or make it clear that the harassment is not welcome."

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No surprises here then

Nnigel Pierce 28 Oct 2013

I read with interest this article and applaude the authors and researchers for this expose. I have worked in many and varied industries and apart from the voluntary sector have found this male dominance and bullying approach often linked with a form of fear of women. I would love to see some further research to establish why this is continuing, is it the way men were treated in their upbringing, was it a cultural acceptance that this was the way to behave, yes this and many other reasons I expect. Now though we need women to be prepared to complain because other methods do not work. They need to be able to complain in a safe environment and a resolution established. Finally we need to raise awareness rapidly with the men who perpetrate this unacceptable behaviour. Ask them how they would feel if this behavior was directed toward their daughter or wife!

needs sorting

Darren H 28 Oct 2013

Agree with the above comment and glad this has come back into HR's attention. A problem we thought had disappeared more than a decade ago has started to rear its ugly head. I think the continued promotion and casualisation of this so-called "lad culture" has a lot to do with inappropriate comments in the office. People are continuing the talk they had with their mates in the pub into the office - In fact do you want those sort of people in your organisation anyway regardless of when they air their views. Would love to see a follow-up in a years time to see if the figures have decreased.

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