More than half of women (52%) surveyed in the UK about sexual harassment at the workplace said they have suffered some form of abuse ranging from unwanted touching and physical advances to demeaning comments or jokes. About one-third of those who faced sexual harassment at work were between 18 and 24-years-old, the survey found.
The study conducted by Trade Union Congress (TUC) in collaboration with the Everyday Sexism Project also found that in about 88% of the cases, the perpetrators were male. Nearly one in five women said they were abused by their line managers or someone with direct authority over them.
However, four out of five women who admitted they suffered some form of harassment said they did not report the matter to their employer. About 28% of the women who did not report the harassment cases, said they refrained from complaining as they feared the move could negatively impact their relationships at work, while 15% thought it could have a negative impact on their career prospects.
Some 20% said they were too embarrassed to talk about it, while 24% of these women said they felt they would not be believed or taken seriously, which stopped them from reporting the problem.
The findings were published on 10 August in a report titled "Still just a bit of banter?" and showed that nearly 32% of respondents were subjected to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work. Around 28% have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work and nearly 23% have experienced unwanted touching, such as a hand on the knee or lower back at work.
About 20% of those who were surveyed said they have experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances at work, while 12% women said they have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss at their workplaces.
TUC said the survey covered 1,533 adult British women who are either working, or have been in some paid work in the past. The online survey, carried out by YouGov, was conducted between 4 and 6 January and also included women who identify as black, minority and ethnic origin.
Commenting on the findings, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, said: "Let's be clear — sexual harassment is undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health. Victims are often left feeling ashamed and frightened. It has no place in a modern workplace, or in wider society.
"Employers must be clear they have a zero tolerance attitude to sexual harassment and treat any complaint seriously. It's a scandal that so few women feel their bosses are dealing with the issue properly.
"Anyone worried about inappropriate behaviour at work should join a union to make sure they are protected and respected at work," O'Grady added.
Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, said: "These findings reveal the shameful extent of the problem and the reality of the touching, unwanted advances, and inappropriate comments women find themselves confronted with while simply trying to do their jobs. This is shameful behaviour that has no place in 2016 and employers need to take urgent action to tackle the problem."