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Sexual harassment rife in workplace, study finds

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."