From education to employment

New TUC poll: 2 in 3 young women have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work

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  • Poll of more than 1,000 women finds 3 in 5 women say they have experienced harassment at work – rising to almost 2 in 3 women aged 25 to 34
  • Most victims don’t report it for fear of not being believed, or damaging their working relationships and career prospects
  • Polling published as TUC warns Tory Lords are trying to sabotage “essential” new laws to prevent harassment at work

Three in five (58%) women – and almost two-thirds (62%) of women aged between 25 and 34 – say they have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work, according to a new TUC poll published today (Friday).

The TUC poll found that most of these cases were not isolated incidents with more than three in five (57%) women saying they’ve experienced three or more incidents of bullying at work.

And two in five (43%) women have experienced at least three incidents of sexual harassment. 

Worker Protection Bill

The poll is published as the TUC is warning that some Conservative MPs and Lords are trying to sabotage new laws to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault at work.

The Worker Protection Bill, a private member’s bill put forward by Wera Hobhouse MP with ministers’ support, would introduce a new preventative duty on employers to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

The bill would also protect workers from harassment and abuse by third parties like customers or clients. 

The TUC says that these are two big gaps in the current workplace protections for women. 

But the TUC says government backbenchers are trying to “delay and derail” the bill, so it does not pass within the parliamentary time available.

Third party harassment

Protecting working women from sexual harassment by third parties – such as a customer, client, patient, or member of the public – is crucial as the TUC poll found that in two out of five (39%) of the most recent incidents, the perpetrator of the sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse was a third party rather than another member of staff.

Younger women are particularly at risk of this kind of harassment. Half of women (52%) aged 18 to 34 say they have experienced harassment from a third party at work.

Most often (71%) incidents of sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse happen at work in work premises, but they also happen over phone or text messages (12%), and online, by email, on social media or on a virtual meeting (8%).

Reporting sexual harassment and assault

The poll found that less than one in three (30%) of women who say they experienced sexual harassment at work told their employer about what was happening – and only two in five (44%) of those being bullied and half (50%) experiencing verbal abuse report it.

Of those who didn’t report it, some felt they would not be believed or taken seriously (39%), while others thought reporting it would impact negatively on their relationships at work (37%) or on their career prospects (25%).

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Every woman should be safe from sexual harassment. But every day we hear stories about the extent of sexual harassment in our workplaces.

“And we know many women in public-facing jobs – like retail workers and GP receptionists – suffer regular abuse from customers and patients.

“Sexual harassment and bullying have no place in modern workplaces. 

“Ministers promised to bring in long overdue new laws to prevent workplace sexual harassment and tackle abuse from third parties like customers and clients.

“But they are now backsliding under pressure from their own backbenchers who are trying to delay and derail these vital new protections.

“It will be a disgrace if the government allows this bill to fall.

“Ministers must urgently ensure this bill passes in full – or they will let down working women right across the country.”

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