Sexual harassment at work or place of study 'experienced by 53% of UK women'

More than half of all British women have experienced sexual harassment
More than half of all British women have experienced sexual harassment

More than half of all British women have experienced sexual harassment at work or at their place of study, a survey has suggested.

The ComRes study, commissioned by BBC Radio 5 live, found that of the adults asked, 53% of women said they experienced some form of harassment, ranging from inappropriate jokes to physical assault.

The survey, of 2,031 men and women over 18, also showed that women were more likely than men to be targeted by a boss or senior manager (30% compared with 12%), and one in 10 women said their experiences led to them leaving their job or place of study.

Of both men and women who said they experienced harassment, 27% said it was in the form of inappropriate jokes, 15% said they suffered inappropriate touching, and 13% were subject to verbal harassment.

The figures come in the wake of a torrent of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing claims of rape and sexual assault dating back to the 1980s.

Weinstein has vehemently denied the allegations but said he recognised some of his past behaviour "caused a lot of pain".

The survey indicated over two thirds (67%) of all those who had been harassed said they did not report it.

Men were considerably less likely to report experiences of sexual harassment, the survey suggested, with only 21% saying they felt able to tell anyone.

Kiran Daurka, an employment and discrimination solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said bringing harassment claims can be difficult as they often involve one person's word against another.

"The person bringing the complaint is also required to prove that the conduct was 'unwanted' when in most cases the main defence will be that it was mutual, if they admit it happened at all," she said.

"In addition, the person who has been the victim of harassment must be prepared to bring the legal claim within three months of the offence, when many do not feel able to talk about the situation.

"They may also be employed in the company where the harassment occurred, creating a further impediment to seeking redress."