NEW findings released by the STUC reveal high levels of sexual harassment in Scottish workplaces, coupled with the systemic under-reporting of such harassment by its victims.

In a report released on the eve of International Women’s Day, survey data gathered by the STUC indicates that over 45% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work. This includes high proportions of women across every sector in Scotland, with incidents being most common in precarious, low-paying, public-facing and male-dominated industries.

The report also found that one third of women have experienced sexual harassment at work within the last year, while over 50% of respondents know or are aware of a colleague who has experienced this kind of harassment.

Additionally, 80% of women who have experienced sexual harassment at work in Scotland did not report it. Harassment from bosses and those in powerful positions prevented more than half of victims from reporting the experience. Amongst those who did report their experiences, 70% said they felt unsupported within their workplace, and 85% said their reports were not taken seriously or dealt with appropriately.

“It is a part of women of all ages’ daily life and working experience," said one respondent. "It is almost a case of not if, but when.”

According to report, these findings “affirm that workplaces across Scotland are ill-equipped, ill-prepared, and ill-educated when it comes to understanding, preventing and appropriately dealing with incidents of, workplace sexual harassment".

STUC women’s committee chair Fiona Steele said: “This report should make uncomfortable reading for employers. Our findings show women often don’t report sexual harassment as they know complaints are mishandled, no action will be taken or don’t even think their bosses will believe them.

“Having a safe workplace isn’t just about accidents and risks, it means protecting women from harassment and making sure they have dignity and respect at work.”

The National: Janitor and cleansing staff protest in George Square, Glasgow ahead of strike action next week. Pictured is Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary..Photograph by Colin Mearns.3 December 2021.For GT, see story by EszterTarnai.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer (above) also commented: “We need a complete change of approach to the responsibility of employers to prevent sexual harassment, including where the travel to work is precarious.  There is much more government can do, here in Scotland and across the UK, to increase the rights of women to protection.”

The report calls for numerous actions from businesses, government and the trade union movement itself. These include requiring all businesses in Scotland to record and report incidents of sexual harassment, immediate implementation of the UK Government’s commitment to introducing a new duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment, the creation of an Equality Court in Scotland, and legislation which would make public sexual harassment a crime in Scotland.