Dealing With Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Dealing with sexual harassment

Sexual harassment has become a prominent topic in recent weeks after the revelations that have shocked Hollywood, Westminster and the BBC. For many people, seeing these accusations arise has simply been something to read in the news or watch on television, but for many it is not simply something that exists in the entertainment industry.

New research by Opinium Research for the Telegraph shows that sexual harassment is found perhaps more frequently than expected in workplaces in the United Kingdom. 14 per cent of people said that they had experienced sexual harassment while at work.

Broken down by gender, the figure rose to 20% among women whilst dropping to 7% amongst men. In real figures this was shown to be around 2.5 million women, revealing that inappropriate behaviour towards women is unfortunately prominent in UK workplaces.

Along with this, the research also discovered a divide in age of those reporting harassment. Amongst 18-34 year olds, 18% said that they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace compared to 7% of workers aged over 55.

Sexual Harassment Going Unreported

In a sad, yet unsurprising, statistic almost three fifths (58%) of the women who confirmed experiencing sexual harassment said that they did not report it to their company. For the women who did report their experience, 33% of the cases were not acted upon by their senior management while a fifth (18%) was not even acknowledged at all.

A suggested reason for the lack of reporting of sexual harassment cases is that 57% of the women who have experienced harassment felt further intimated by how they have been spoken to. This can particularly affect not only productivity in work but cause harm both physically and mentally in everyday life.

According to an article from NBC, Dr Helen Wilson, a licensed clinical psychologist who has expertise particularly on the effects on trauma said that 90% of women who experienced sexual violence exhibited symptoms of acute stress in the immediate aftermath. Some people will see these symptoms slowly dissipate over time but unfortunately for some, it can increase until it interferes with both work and life.

Another study by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark, and published in the BMC Public Health Journal found in particular that those who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace were more likely to develop severe depression symptoms.

What To Do If You Experience Sexual Harassment?

While it may be hard for people to report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to remember that it is against the law according the Equality Act 2010. According to this law, harassment is classed as engaging unwanted conduct of sexual nature or conduct that has the purpose of violating someone’s dignity, creating a hostile, humiliating and intimidating environment.

Sexual harassment can be found in a variety of ways including physical behaviour that includes unwelcome advances along with forms of assault. It can also include things such as sexual jokes or comments, sending emails that have a sexual content or displaying images of a sexual nature that make someone feel uncomfortable.

According to Citizen’s Advice, if you feel that you are being sexually harassed by someone in the workplace then you should contact your manager first. This should be in the form of writing and make sure to keep a copy of the letter or email as proof that you have raised this. Also talk to your HR department or your trade union as you will be able to receive further advice from them.

Something important to consider is to collect evidence of anything that happens, whether this is physical forms of evidence or simply keep a diary of all the times you have been harassed. Make sure that every incident is clearly written down with as many details as you can remember. This can be particularly useful if any further action is required in the future.

If the behaviour does not stop, then an official complaint or formal grievance should be raised and if it is further not resolved, a claim at an employment tribunal could be considered. For employers who are wondering what they should do to reassure their employees, they should in particular make sure to educate everyone about their sexual harassment policies given the recent awareness that is being made.

We have provided some links below to sites that may help if you have experienced sexual harassment:


Equality Advisory Support Service

Victim Support

Rape Crisis

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Sarah Jubb

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