Sexual harrassment at all time high as 40% of women say they have been inappropriately touched by colleagues

Sexual harrassment suffered by HALF female workforce – while 40% say they have been touched inappropriately by colleagues



15:37 GMT, 28 May 2012

As summer arrives in earnest and the weather heats up, office workers everywhere start swapping their sweltering suits for skimpy tops or dresses.

But for some, the warmer weather simply signals months of suffering. A new study has revealed that a staggering number of British women are so fearful of sexual harrassment in the workplace that they choose to cover up in the summer months – simply to avoid unwanted attention in the office.

The report shows that half of Britain's female workforce is being sexually discriminated against on a daily basis.

Inequality: Over half of women surveyed reported suffering some sort of sexual harrassment at work

Inequality: Over half of women surveyed reported suffering some sort of sexual harrassment at work

And many try to tackle the problem themselves – whatever the weather- simply by dressing more demurely.

A survey of more than 3,400 women found one in two have experienced some form of ‘gender harassment', including offensive sexist remarks and being made the butt of chauvinist jokes.

Over 1,200 of those who had experienced harassment went on to answer questions about the behaviour they felt they were being subjected to every day.

Incredibly, four in 10 admitted they had been touched in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, such as a slap on the bottom or hand on the thigh, while 27 per cent have even been kissed by someone, despite spurning their advances.

Two thirds said the boss or other male colleagues had made inappropriate comments about what they were wearing and 46 per cent reacted by dressing down for work.

The report reveals a further 43 per cent of women claim to have been sworn at by colleagues, while the same percentage have been propositioned in a manner which made them feel awkward.

Six in 10 have felt distressed when male colleagues have referred to them inappropriately in front of others.

And when it comes to moving up the career ladder, many women feel they are treated as second best because of their gender.

Twenty three per cent of women feel convinced a colleague has secured a promotion that was rightfully theirs, just because they were male.

Only one in five women have reported a colleague, line manager or boss for sexual harassment or discrimination

A quarter of women claim male colleagues in exactly the same position as them are being paid more, while 37 per cent say members of the opposite sex are often chosen over them for tasks they can easily do.

Shockingly, a third have considered leaving work, and a quarter suffered mental and physical health problems because of their experiences.

Yet half of those polled said they wouldn't know who to go to if they wanted to lodge a complaint or take legal action.

And only one in five women have reported a colleague, line manager or boss for sexual harassment or discrimination.

Just over half said they would be worried about people believing them, while 29 per cent don't want a black mark against their name.

Twelve per cent feel they would ruin their chances of a promotion if they made a fuss, and 31 per cent don't want to be known as a trouble maker.

The study was conducted by, set up by lawyer Rachel Temple, and colleague Oliver Cook to advise potential victims whether they have a case.

Said Rachel: 'We were shocked to discover the extent of sexual harassment in UK workplaces. Women have to run the gauntlet of inappropriate workplace behaviour every day of the week.

'Hundreds of thousands of women are suffering discrimination of some kind, but half of those we spoke to said they simply don't know where to turn to for help.

'We were sad to hear that 30 per cent of women we surveyed didn't do anything about the problems they were facing because they didn't want to be known as a troublemaker, and furthermore they were – understandably – confused about the legal process.

'Many of these issues escalate to the point of not being solvable within the workplace and that's where the legal profession could be useful.