LGBT harassment at work widespread, TUC survey suggests

LGBT at work

More than two-thirds of LGBT people in the UK have been sexually harassed at work, a survey suggests.

Of the LGBT people polled by the Trades Union Congress, 68% said they had experienced harassment, with 42% saying colleagues had made unwanted comments about their sex life.

More than a quarter said they had received unwelcome sexual advances.

The government said it was planning to shortly consult on how to strengthen existing laws on harassment.

The survey – released on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – was conducted by the Trade Union Congress and is believed to be the first major study into LGBT sexual harassment at work in the UK.

According to the survey, of the 68% who said they had experienced sexual harassment, 66% did not tell their employer, sometimes because they were afraid of being “outed” at work.

The figure of 68% for LGBT people in the TUC’s survey compares with a figure of 37% for the wider population in a BBC survey carried out in 2017.

Of the 2,031 British adults questioned for BBC Radio 5 Live 53% of women and 20% of men said they had experienced sexual harassment, ranging from inappropriate comments to actual sexual assaults, at work or a place of study.

The TUC survey also suggested LGBT women were more likely to experience unwanted touching and sexual assault at work than men.

‘Hidden epidemic’

Over a third of the women surveyed had experienced unwanted touching, for example placing hands on their lower back or knee. One in eight had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the research revealed a “hidden epidemic” of LGBT abuse.

She 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.”

She said the government needed to “change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims”.

Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, said the figures were “shocking”, but added: “We know from our own research and this report that LGBT people still face abuse and discrimination in Britain’s workplaces.”

A Government Equalities Office spokesperson said: “It is appalling LGBT people are suffering this harassment. Workplaces should be safe, supportive environments for everybody.

“The government will consult shortly on how we can strengthen and clarify existing laws on third-party harassment, as well as making sure employers fully understand their legal responsibility to protect their staff.”