Nearly 7 in 10 (68 per cent) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people report being sexually harassed at work, according to new research published by the TUC.
TUC says that the issue is a hidden problem. In its survey of 1,151 adult LGBT workers in Great Britain, two thirds of those who are being harassed are not reporting it. A quarter of those who did not report the harassment said they were silenced for fear of ‘outing’ themselves at work.
“Many of the incidents of sexual harassment that we were told about appeared to be linked to the sexualisation of LGBT identities and the misconception that these identities solely focus on sexual activity,” says the report, which is published on Friday 17 May, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
“People influenced by these stereotypes see being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans as an invitation to make sexualised comments or ask inappropriate questions about an LGBT person’s sex life, particularly if an individual is ‘out’.”
LGBT women responding to the survey experienced higher levels of sexual harassment compared to men. Women were almost twice as likely to experience serious sexual assault or rape than men, at aound one in eight women (12 per cent) compared to one in fourteen (7 per cent) of men. They were also more than twice as likely to report unwanted touching; 35 per cent of women compared to 16 per cent of men.
TUC is using the findings to call for new laws that could force employers to take preventative steps to stop sexual harassment happening and to strengthen the role of HSE.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “In 2019 LGBT people should be safe and supported at work. But instead they’re experiencing shockingly high levels of sexual harassment and assault.
“Workplace culture needs to change. No one should think that a colleague being LGBT is an invitation for sexualised comments or inappropriate questions – let alone serious acts of assault.
“Government must change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims.”
HSE has so far resisted pressure to take a more active role in tackling or investigating sexual harassment at work. On 18 July 2018 the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee released the report Sexual Harassment in the Workplace which cited research of 6,206 adults in Britain which found 40 per cent of women had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace.
The report said: “The HSE told us that there is no specific duty under health and safety legislation regarding sexual harassment, and that law on sexual harassment was for the EHRC and the police to enforce.”
“We understand that the HSE must prioritise its use of resources, but we cannot accept that sexual harassment is not sufficiently serious to be worthy of its attention.”
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