Nearly four in ten of the 2,031 surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual harassment, with 53% being women and 20% being men.
Data from the survey shows men were considerably less likely to report their experience of sexual harassment, with four in five (79%) saying they did not report their experiences.
One in 10 women in the survey said they were victims of sexual assault, with another one in 10 experiencing sexual harassment that caused them to leave their job or place of study.
Women were significantly more likely to experience harassment from a boss or senior manager (30%). Contrastingly, more men experienced harassment from a colleague on the same level compared to women (57%).
Law firm Leigh Day employment and discrimination partner Kiran Daurka said bringing forward harassment claims was difficult due to cases often involving one person’s word against another.
“The person bringing the complaint is also required to prove the conduct was ‘unwanted’ when in most cases the main defence will be that it was mutual, if they admit it happened at all,” she said.
“In addition, the person who has been the victim of harassment must be prepared to bring the legal claim within three months of the offence, when many do not feel able to talk about the situation.”
Daurka added that many employers chose to “gloss over” harassment claims and called on organisations to have staff skilled to deal with reports of harassment in a “sensitive and thorough manner, without worrying about reputation management”.
Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia recently spoke of “pervading sexism” during her employment at the Royal Bank of Scotland from 2001 to 2007.
Speaking at the Treasury Committee’s ‘Women in Finance’ inquiry yesterday, she said women struggled to progress in financial services due to instances of sexual harassment and she encouraged male senior employees to address the issue at their workplace.