Over two-thirds of LGBT people in the UK have been sexually harassed at work, according to a new report.
Of the over 1,000 LGBT people polled by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), 68% said they have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Two in five (42%) said colleagues had made unwanted comments about their sex lives, and more than a quarter (27%) said they had received unwelcome sexual advances.
These figures could be much higher than what companies have reported, as 66% of these people said they did not report the harassment, with a quarter admitting they were afraid of being “outed” at work.
The survey found LGBT women were twice as likely to experience sexual assault at work, with 35% having experienced unwanted touching — such as a hand being placed on their lower back or knee — compared with 16% of men.
A fifth (21%) said they had been sexually assaulted — having their breasts, buttocks, or genitals touched, or being kissed without permission — compared with 12% of men.
One in eight (12%) women said they were “seriously” sexually assaulted or raped, compared with 7% of men.
The figures were higher for black and minority ethnic (BAME) LGBT women. Over half (54%) of BAME women said they had experienced unwanted touching at work, and almost as many (45%) had experienced sexual assault.
More than a quarter (27%) had been “seriously” sexually assaulted or raped — three times that of white women.
LGBT people said these experiences had long-term impacts on their lives. About one in six (16%) noticed a negative effect on their mental health, and just as many left their job as a result of being sexually harassed.
The report coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on 17 May.
“In 2019 LGBT people should be safe and supported at work. But instead they’re experiencing shockingly high levels of sexual harassment and assault,” Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said.
“Workplace culture needs to change. No one should think a colleague being LGBT is an invitation for sexualised comments or inappropriate questions — let alone serious acts of assault.”
The TUC called on the UK government to place a legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, with “real consequences for those who don’t comply”.
“Government must change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims,” O’Grady said.