27 September 2018
One In Four Women Still Have A ‘Weinstein’ In Their Workplace – With More Than A Third Experiencing Sexual Harassment In The Last 12 Months, Study Shows
More than a third of women have been sexually harassed at work in the last 12 months despite the MeToo movement shining a spotlight on the problem, a new study has found.
A year after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, 37 per cent say they have experienced harassment and 39 per cent have witnessed colleagues being abused.
One in four (28 per cent) claim they still have a ‘Weinstein’ in their workplace – a predatory male colleague or boss who uses his position to prey on female members of staff.
Employment law specialists Slater and Gordon spoke to 2,000 women for the study, which paints a worrying picture of today’s workplace for women post-MeToo.
Suggestive or inappropriate comments or behaviour were still the most common experiences (16 per cent), but females also told of being subjected to sexually explicit or sexist conduct (11 per cent) and in six per cent of cases, groped.
A similar poll carried out this time last year showed more than half of women (51 per cent) had been sexually harassed at work but were often too scared to speak out, and even now it seems little has changed.
Just a fifth of women (21 per cent) who had been a recent victim had made a formal complaint. Reasons ranged from believing nothing would be done (36 per cent), fears they wouldn’t be believed (22 per cent), that it would harm their career (18 per cent) to claiming it was just the norm in their workplace - a depressing reality for one in five (21 per cent).
Many of those who did speak up found it made the situation worse – from negative rumours and comments from colleagues (14 per cent) to being sidelined (12 per cent) or moved (11 per cent). Nine per cent said the harassment continued and seven per cent lost their job.
Clare Armstrong, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “The case of Harvey Weinstein has brought to the forefront the ugly environment many people are exposed to at work and it is worrying that despite recent events, it is still such an issue.
“We have certainly seen more people contacting us after realising that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable or normal and there is something they can do about it.
“The MeToo movement has been hugely positive in terms of highlighting the issue and encouraging women to talk about their experiences, but these results do show there is still that fear holding many of them back.
“It takes courage to report sexual harassment and the confidence that your employer will listen and support you, but I think many companies are still ignorant to the severity of the problem or are choosing to turn a blind eye.”
Women reported feeling uncomfortable, scared, violated, degraded, intimidated, ashamed and depressed following the harassment, the majority of which was committed by men in positions of power.
Six in 10 (59 per cent) who had been targeted in the last 12 months said it had happened before on multiple occasions throughout their career, often for months at a time.
Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed weren’t sure whether colleagues would feel confident in reporting harassment to a manager. Mirroring the earlier study, respondents said they would fear repercussions (53 per cent) and one if five (20 per cent) said it was still considered acceptable.
More than half (52 per cent) said their employer had not put in place any measures to combat sexual harassment in the wake of Weinstein and MeToo. Fifty-six per cent said their company did not have an anti-harassment policy or if it did, they weren’t aware.
One in five (20 per cent) didn’t believe their employer took the issue seriously enough – and many colleagues weren’t supportive either.
Almost 70 per cent (69 per cent) of women who identified a ‘Weinstein’ in their workplace admitted their behaviour went unpunished because people didn’t want to jeopardise their job (23 per cent), were too scared (19 per cent) or simply turned a blind eye and assumed someone else would report them (16 per cent). Alarmingly, 13 per cent thought their actions were ‘harmless.’
Clare Armstrong added: “What’s striking is how some workplaces still seem to normalise this behaviour, even in the wake of MeToo.
“Sexual harassment at work is unlawful and can be the basis for an employment tribunal claim against the employer and the individual perpetrator. Employers are obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent it and if they fail to do so they are unlikely to have a good defence.
“There is currently no legal obligation on companies to have an anti-harassment policy, but making this mandatory is a necessary step.
“We would also like to see the reintroduction of mandatory equality questionnaires where employees can ask questions about any incidents of harassment and discrimination. Although it is good practice for employers to respond to questions, there is no statutory time frame or automatic inference of discrimination if they fail to, as used to be the case.”
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