TUC: Nearly 7 in 10 LGBT people say they have been sexually harassed at work

17 May 2019 11:50 AM

Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people report being sexually harassed at work, according to new research published by the TUC on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia today (Friday).

The report – the first major study into LGBT sexual harassment at work in Great Britain – found that:

LGBT women

According the survey, LGBT women were more likely to experience unwanted touching and sexual assault at work.

LGBT BME and disabled people

BME women and disabled men and women reported even higher rates of harassment and sexual assault.


LGBT people told the TUC these experiences had a big impact on their lives. Around 1 in 6 (16%) said the sexual harassment at work affected their mental health. A similar proportion (16%) told the TUC that they had left their job as a result of being sexually harassed – and for 1 in 25 described the experience as so unbearable that it caused them to leave their job without another job to go to.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This research reveals a hidden epidemic.

“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. No one should think that a colleague being LGBT is an invitation for sexualised comments or inappropriate questions – let alone serious acts of assault.

“Government must change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims. And anyone worried about sexual harassment at work should join a union.”

Editors note

The report is available at https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/sexual-harassment-lgbt-people-workplace

Defining sexual harassment: We have used the Equality Act 2010 definition of sexual harassment. It defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for them. Sexual harassment at work can take many forms, from suggestive remarks, jokes and questions about a colleague’s sex life, and displaying or circulating pornography, to inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing, or sexual assault. 

Methodology: The TUC commissioned research from ICM Unlimited in November 2018. ICM interviewed a sample of 1,001 LGBT workers (who have worked within the last 5 years) aged 18+ living in Great Britain online between 22 November and 5 December 2018. No quotas were set as the exact profile of LGBT people in Great Britain is not available in census data. Data therefore remains unweighted. ICM also conducted an additional 150 interviews among female LGBT workers (who have worked within the last 5 years) aged 18+ living in Great Britain, in order to facilitate a more robust analysis. 49 BME LGBT women were interviewed. For more information about ICM Unlimited visit: www.icmunlimited.com 

TUC recommendations: (for the full recommendations please see the report)

The TUC is calling on the government to:

The TUC is calling on employers to:

The TUC is calling on unions to:

Previous research on LGBT sexual harassment at work: Very little is known about the true extent of sexual harassment of LGBT people at work in the UK. The most recent research into LGBT peoples’ experience of workplace sexual harassment was conducted by the Government Equalities Office (GEO). This found that 1% of LGBT people, who had been in a job for the 12 months preceding the survey, had experienced sexual harassment or violence at work. However, this finding was based on a single question within a wider survey which did not attempt to define sexual harassment or contextualise it. 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


Elly Gibson 
020 7467 1337 
079 0091 0624

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin 
020 7467 1288 
07771 713574

TUC press office 
020 7467 12 48