1 in 4 young women fear being fired for reporting sexual harassment

Tuesday 15 October 2019

On the 2nd anniversary of #MeToo, 1 in 4 young women still fear they'll be fired for reporting sexual harassment 

Two years on from the #MeToo movement, one in four young women say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment at work for fear of losing their job, according to a survey by the charity Young Women’s Trust.

Sexual Harassment 1 in 4

Despite TUC research showing that 63 percent of young women have been sexually harassed at work, Young Women’s Trust can reveal that just six percent of young women who experienced this say they have reported it. 

When asked what would put them off reporting a quarter say they fear losing their job, one in five say they feared being given fewer hours at work and one in three say they do not know how to report sexual harassment.

Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive Sophie Walker said:

"We're marking the #MeToo anniversary with yet another call for action. When will the men who make political decisions, run workplaces and lead businesses decide that respect and equality for women is important?

“No woman should feel unsafe at work or put up with sexual harassment as something that's part of the day job - we've heard so many testimonies, read so many reports and yet it's still not mandatory to stop this from happening.”

Fears are even higher among young women of colour and young women with a disability or long-term health condition, with 30 and 37 percent respectively saying they would fear losing their job if they reported sexual harassment.

The charity’s research shows that these fears are not without foundation. 16 percent of young women say they “know of cases of sexual harassment at work that have been reported and not dealt with properly”. Five percent, or one in 20, young women say they have had to change job due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse. Eight percent of young women say they have been treated less well at work because they rejected sexual advances.

Young women are critical of employers’ efforts to tackle sexual harassment. One in ten say they feel “let down by their employer’s efforts to tackle sexual harassment at work”. One in three say that “there has been talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement started”.

Walker continued:

“We’re calling on the Government to make it mandatory for all employers to protect their workers and volunteers from harassment and victimisation. Alongside this, employers should make it easier to report abuse by customers and clients, as well as colleagues, and put in place unbiased reporting processes that do not penalise victims.”

The Government recently consulted on possible measures it could take to reduce workplace sexual harassment and make it easier for workers to report issues.

Young Women’s Trust is calling on the Government to:

  • put a legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces;
  • reinstate section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which made employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party (e.g. clients and customers);
  • place a legal duty on employers and organisations to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment; and
  • extend the three month time limit for employees to bring tribunal cases under the Equality Act to at least six months. 

ENDS

Notes to editor:  

1. Young Women's Trust works to give economic power to young women by raising their voices, challenging sexist stereotypes and rebuilding workplaces free from discrimination. We do this by: 

  • Providing free coaching and CV feedback to young women to help them build their skills, identify their talents and develop strong mental health 
  • Advising companies how to build equal workplaces 
  • Campaigning for young women to be valued – at work and in their unpaid work  
  • Training young activists to share their experiences and be the change 

2.     All figures unless otherwise stated are based on findings from a survey carried out for Young Women’s Trust by Populus Data Solutions. A representative sample of 4,025 18-30 year olds (1,998 young men and 1,997 young women) in England and Wales, with panel services provided by Populus Live, were surveyed between 25 June and 11 July 2019. The survey shows that: 

 
  1. 25 percent of young women, or a quarter, say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their job;
  2. one in five young women (19 percent) say they would be scared to report the issue;
  • 19 percent, or one in five, young women say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment for “fear being given fewer hours”. Among 18 to 24 year-olds the percentage was higher, at 24 percent, or one in five, compared to 25 to 30 year-olds (15 percent);
  • 31 percent of young women, or nearly one in three, say they do not know how to report sexual harassment at work;
  • eight percent of young women say that their workplace does not take sexual harassment seriously;
  • 16 percent of young women say they “know of cases of sexual harassment at work that have been reported and not dealt with properly”;
  • five percent, or one in 20, young women have had to change job due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse;
  • Eight percent of young women say they have been treated less well at work because they rejected sexual advances; and
  • of those in work, 12 percent of young women are worried about being sexually harassed.

3. In addition, young women also say their employers are not doing enough to tackle the issue but do not feel confident challenging their employers over it:

  • one in ten young women (10 percent) say they feel “let down by their employer’s efforts to tackle sexual harassment at work”. 40 percent of young women say they do not feel confident challenging their employer about sexual harassment; and
  • 31 percent of young women, or nearly one in three, say that “there has been talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #metoo movement started”. In total (including men) 24 percent of young people agree with this.

4.  Young Women’s Trust is calling on the Government to: 

  • put a legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces;
  • reinstate section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which made employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party (e.g. clients and customers);
  • place a legal duty on employers and organisations to protect interns and volunteers from sexual harassment; and
  • extend the three month time limit for employees to bring tribunal cases under the Equality Act to at least six months.

5. Young Women’s Trust is calling on employers to:

  • adopt a zero-tolerance policy to sexual harassment and make this clear to all employees;
  • make complaints policies clear to staff and easy to access (e.g. on the intranet) to make it easier to report incidents;
  • put in place unbiased complaints processes that do not penalise victims, bringing in external independent help where possible; and
  • improve workplace cultures by valuing, amplifying and acting on young women’s voices in the organisation.

To request an interview with Sophie Walker, or for more information on Young Women’s Trust’s policy recommendations, surveys or case studies, please contact Bex Bailey at bex.bailey@youngwomenstrust.org or on 020 7837 2019. 

Social