Nearly seven in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people have been sexually harassed at work, according to research for the Trades Union Congress revealing a “hidden epidemic”.

The survey, published on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on Friday (May 17), found that more than two in five LGBT people (42%) said they had experienced colleagues making unwelcome comments or asking unwelcome questions about their sex life. More than a quarter (27%) reported receiving unwelcome verbal sexual advances.

Two-thirds (66%) said they did not tell their employer about the harassment, and a quarter of these said it was because they were afraid of being “outed” at work, with 1 in 6 reporting they had left their jobs as a result of being sexually harassed.

The survey found LGBT women were more likely to experience unwanted touching and sexual assault at work. More than a third (35%) reported experiencing unwanted touching, for example hands placed on their lower back or knee.

More than one-fifth (21%) reported experiencing sexual assault, for example unwanted touching of the breasts, buttocks or genitals, or attempts to kiss them, while one in eight (12%) LGBT women said they had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work.

Trade Unions Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O'Grady TUC
Trade Unions Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the research revealed a “hidden epidemic” of LGBT abuse.

She said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, said the figures were “shocking”, but added: “We know from our own research and this report that LGBT people still face abuse and discrimination in Britain’s workplaces.”

A Government Equalities Office spokesperson said: “It is appalling LGBT people are suffering this harassment. Workplaces should be safe, supportive environments for everybody.”

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