Julia Irvine 17 May 2019 02:34pm

TUC calls time on LGBT sexual harassment

The TUC is calling on the government to impose a new legal duty on employers, in order to better to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) employees after research revealed a “hidden epidemic” of sexual harassment at work

It wants employers to be made directly responsible for preventing harassment and the law on third-party harassment to be strengthened. It would also like to see a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work introduced.

“Above all we want government, employers and unions to put this issue front and centre of their workplace campaigns and policies,” it says. “We can’t allow this behaviour to go unchecked any longer.”

The survey of more than 1,000 LGBT people revealed that nearly seven out of 10 (68%) had been sexually harassed at work, while 66% did not tell their employer – largely because they were worried it would negatively impact their relationships at work. However, 25% revealed that they stayed silent because they were frightened of being “outed” at work.

Of those who had been harassed, one in six said the experience had affected their mental health and a similar number had left their job as a direct consequence. One in 25 said the experience was so traumatic that they had left their job without another one to go to.

The research also revealed the high levels of unwanted touching and sexual assault that LGBT workers, particularly women, experience – of the respondents 35% of women and 16% of men reported incidents of unwanted touching, more than 20% of women and 12% of men had been sexually assaulted and 12% of women and 7% of men said they had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work.

One woman reported, “Touching my breasts at a work night out…trying to kiss me… It was related to turning me straight and trying to show me what I am missing.”

A breakdown of the statistics shows that trans women and black and minority ethnic (BME) LGBT women are the most likely to have experienced sexual harassment, but both male and female disabled LGBT people reported higher levels than non-disabled LGBT people.

Of the respondents, BME men were much more likely than white men to be sent pornographic material or experience unwelcome verbal sexual advances.

“Today should mark the beginning of the end for those who think they can sexually harass or assault LGBT people at work,” said the TUC’s Quinn Roache. “Because a year and a half after #MeToo, their time’s up too.”