The majority of LGBTI people suffer sexual harassment in the workplace, according to new research.
The survey, published on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) on Friday (17 May) by the Trades Union Congress revealed a ‘hidden epidemic’ in the British workplace.
Almost seven out of 10 LGBTI people said they faced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Two in five LGBTI people (42%) said colleagues made unwelcome comments. Meanwhile, 27% said they received unwelcome verbal sexual advances.
66% said they did not tell their employer. A quarter of those said they feared being ‘outed’ if they reported it.
However, the survey found LGBT women were most at risk of unwanted touching and sexual assault. 35% said they experienced unwanted touching – which includes hands on their lower back or knee. But 21% reported sexual assault – which includes touching of breasts, buttocks or genitals.
A shocking 12% of LGBTI women said they had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work.
Black and minority ethnic women reported higher levels of sexual assault. 54% experienced unwanted touching, 45% experienced sexual assault, and 27% reported serious sexual assault or rape.
Disabled men faced higher levels of sexual harassment than non-disabled men. 28% reported sexual assault.
The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: ‘This research reveals a hidden epidemic. 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 sexualized comments or inappropriate questions, let alone serious acts.’
Laura Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall, said: ‘These are shocking figures into what some lesbian, gay, bi and trans people experience in the workplace. All employers have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure LGBT people are free from discrimination.
‘But we know from our own research and this report that LGBT people still face abuse and discrimination in Britain’s workplaces. Stonewall works with employers through our Diversity Champions program to develop zero-tolerance policies on anti-LGBT discrimination and encourages businesses to communicate clear routes to report bullying and harassment at work.’