AROUND SEVEN IN 10 (68 per cent) disabled women surveyed about sexual harassment say they have been sexually harassed at work, according to a new poll published by the TUC.

Younger disabled women aged 18 to 34 are even more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, with almost eight out of 10 (78 per cent) reporting being harassed at work.

A ground-breaking TUC study on sexual harassment published in 2016 found that more than half (52 per cent) of women had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. And in a further TUC survey in 2019, nearly seven in 10 (68 per cent) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people reported being sexually harassed at work

Sexual harassment at work can take many forms, from suggestive remarks, jokes about a colleague’s sex life, circulating pornography, to inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing, demands for sexual favours, and even assault and rape.

This new TUC survey, carried out by YouGov, is the first major study into the sexual harassment of disabled women at work in Great Britain. It found that of those surveyed:

  • Around two in five (38 per cent) have experienced unwelcome sexual advances at work.
  • More than one in three (36 per cent) say they have experienced unwanted touching.
  • Almost one in five (18 per cent) experienced sexual assault, such as unwanted sexual touching.
  • And one in 25 (four per cent) have experienced a serious sexual assault or rape at work.

Reporting

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of disabled women who experienced sexual harassment at work told the TUC that they had not reported the most recent occurrence to their boss..Of these, the most common reason cited was that they did not believe they would be taken seriously (39 per cent).

Some said they were worried it would have a negative impact on their career or work relationships (30 per cent). Other reasons included not thinking they would be believed (13 per cent) or thinking they would be blamed if they reported the incident (11 per cent). Of those who did report the most recent instance of sexual harassment, more than half (53 per cent) said it was not dealt with satisfactorily.

Impact 

Disabled women told the TUC that sexual harassment had a big effect on their lives.

Around one in three (34 per cent) said their experiences had a negative impact on their mental health. More than one in five (21 per cent) said it negatively affected their relationships with colleagues. And it caused one in eight (12 per cent) to leave their job or employer entirely.

Disabled women face significant barriers getting into work and to getting paid the same as non-disabled workers, says the TUC.

Research carried out by the TUC in October 2020 found that disabled women earned 36 per cent less than non-disabled men. And the analysis found that the unemployment gap for disabled women, when compared to non-disabled men was 32.6 percentage points.

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “No one should face sexual harassment at work. But seven in 10 disabled women say they have been sexually harassed by a colleague or a customer while at work.

“Four years on from the explosion of #MeToo on a global scale, employers still aren’t doing enough to make sure women are safe at work. It’s time for every employer to take responsibility for protecting their staff from sexual harassment.

“Ministers must change the law to make employers protect workers from sexual harassment specifically, and from all forms of harassment by customers and clients. Anyone worried about sexual harassment at work should get in touch with their union.”

The TUC is calling on the government to take a range of actions including:

  • Introducing a new duty to prevent sexual harassment, putting an enforceable legal requirement on all employers to protect their workers from harassment.
  • Strengthening legislation to tackle third-party harassment in the upcoming employment bill.
  • An Increase in funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission so it is able ro enforce the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
  • Introduction of a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work, setting out the steps that employers should take to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and what can be considered in evidence when determining whether the duty has been breached.

* Read Sexual harassment of disabled women in the workplace here.

* Source: Trades Union Congress

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