Six in 10 working women have had a male colleague behave “inappropriately” towards them, according to new research.
The study showed that women were still subjected to sexist attitudes at work and nearly a quarter have experienced a senior colleague making a pass at them at some point in their career.
When it came to inappropriate comments and touching, more than half the offenders were more senior members of staff and two-thirds of women said the inappropriate behaviour came from a married man.
But despite saying the behaviour of their colleagues was often degrading and embarrassing, only 27 per cent reported the behaviour to someone senior.
The research polled 1,036 women and was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater & Gordon.
Claire Dawson, an employment lawyer with the firm, said: “We deal with some really shocking cases of sexual harassment in the workplace but it’s always surprising to hear how widespread the issue is and how many women don’t feel like they can report behaviour like this.
“We are well in to the 21st century now and the message doesn’t seem to have got through to everyone that this just isn’t acceptable. Women have a right to go to work without having to fend off unwanted advances or inappropriate behaviour from members of the opposite sex.
“Unfortunately this research confirms what we often see, which is that the woman who is being harassed ends up being unfairly disadvantaged because of it.”
More than a third said a senior male colleague had made inappropriate comments about their breasts, sex life, backside or the clothes they were wearing.
One in six women had been forced to fend off a colleague who tried to kiss them and 12 per cent had a colleague place his hand on her behind.
Women also reported incidents where colleagues put their hands up their skirt, touched their legs or thighs and put their hands in the small of their back.
The most common places for women to experience this behaviour were at their desk while working late, at an office party or in a staff corridor.
Of the 24 per cent of women who had a superior make a move on them, five per cent then lost their job and more than one in 10 said they had been turned down for a promotion.
Shadow women and equalities minister Gloria De Piero said: “This research shows just how far we still have to travel on women’s equality. No workplace should permit a culture where these sorts of attitudes exist. We should be doing more to empower women to challenge this behaviour and come forward and report it to their employer.”