Employment

Two thirds of young women have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work

Legislation to protect women from harassment from colleagues and customers is making it’s way through parliament, but unions fear time is running out before parliament’s summer recess

Black women are disproportionately more likely to experience sexual harassment at work. Image: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Three in five women have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse while at work according to new research, as unions highlight the urgency of legislation to protect women in the workplace. 

This rises to two-thirds of young women, according to a new poll released by the Trades Union Congress. Of those who have experienced sexual harassment, two in five women said it had happened to them at least three times.

“Sexual harassment is happening on an industrial scale in workplaces across Britain,” said TUC general secretary Paul Nowak in a letter urging the government to deliver on its promise to protect women at work through new legislation. 

The findings come as a number of high-profile men have left their jobs following allegations of sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse. 

In recent days, Tesco chairman John Allan has been accused of inappropriate behaviour, including touching the bottoms of two different women, and of making inappropriate remarks on multiple occasions. He has denied all but one of the allegations and remains in the role. 

Former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab recently resigned after an investigation found he bullied colleges, driving some to tears or to throw up before meetings with him. 

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

In March, the former president of the Confederation of British Industry, Tony Danker, was sacked after a Guardian investigation found he sent a female employee a barrage of messages, some of which included sexually suggestive language, for more than a year. The CBI has also faced claims of a rape at a summer work party in 2019, and other sexual misconduct.



And it’s not only colleagues that women need protection from while trying to work. Half of women aged 18 to 34 say they have experienced harassment from a customer, client, patient, member of the public or other third party, according to the new research.

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Back in August 2021, then minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, vowed to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace by introducing a duty to make employers responsible for protecting their staff harassment from colleagues and from third parties.

Nine months ago the Big Issue asked the government Equalities Office what happened to Liz Truss’s pledge to stamp out workplace sexual harassment? But it could only reaffirm the government’s commitment to delivering them. 

A bill to expand the duty of employers to protect their workers under the Equality Act 2010 is making its way through parliament as a private members bill brought by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, however campaigners fear that time is running out for the bill to be passed before the summer recess of parliament.

“Ministers promised to bring in long overdue new laws to prevent workplace sexual harassment and tackle abuse from third parties like customers and clients,” said Nowak in a recent statement. 

He has accused government backbenchers of trying to “delay and derail” the bill, by adding in time-consuming amendments, so it does not pass within the parliamentary time available.A recent poll from management and leadership body, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), suggests that a third of managers have seen harassment or inappropriate behaviour at parties, with women more likely to say they had witnessed it.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Liz Kendall wants to reform the DWP from a 'department for welfare' to a 'department for work'
Liz Kendall DWP
Department for Work and Pensions

Liz Kendall wants to reform the DWP from a 'department for welfare' to a 'department for work'

Workers blame Amazon's 'union-busting' after losing historic union vote: 'This is not the end'
Workers' rights

Workers blame Amazon's 'union-busting' after losing historic union vote: 'This is not the end'

'Huge mandate': Brits of all political stripes want stronger rights for workers, poll finds
workers' rights

'Huge mandate': Brits of all political stripes want stronger rights for workers, poll finds

From a new UK pilot to union backing: The four-day working week has never been closer to reality
Four-day working week

From a new UK pilot to union backing: The four-day working week has never been closer to reality

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know