Research by conciliation experts, Acas, has found that only four in ten workers (38 per cent) would “very likely” report an incident of sexual harassment that they experienced at work.

Only 36 per cent of workers said that they would be “very likely” to report incidents of sexual harassment if they witnessed them in their workplace, with a further 33 per cent stating that they would be “fairly likely” to.

This culture of silence may be more deep-rooted for men, with fewer declaring they would be “very likely” to report incidents they personally experienced (32 per cent for men and 44 per cent for women).

Despite campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, only 24 per cent of respondents agreed that international media coverage had helped to improve the culture at their workplace. Almost half of workers believed that “making changes to the wider culture of the company” would be effective in preventing sexual harassment.

Although 92 per cent of respondents know that sexual harassment is unlawful, only a third (30 per cent) think that incidents of workplace sexual harassment have diminished in the last five years. The same percentage think they have stayed about the same while a tenth think they have increased.

The Acas poll also shows that line managers are seen as the all-important gateway to disclosure and the reporting of incidents - 71 per cent of those who would be likely to report an incident of sexual harassment if they experienced it, said that they would feel comfortable reporting it to their line manager.

Respondents to the poll identified a number of specific measures which they believe would be effective in reducing sexual harassment at work. These include:

  • Better training on the topic for all staff
  • Updating existing policies and procedures for dealing with sexual harassment
  • Creating new policies and procedures
  • Making changes to legal protections

Acas commissioned the study from YouGov in September 2018 to find out whether media reporting on #MeToo and high-profile celebrity cases had had any effect on British workplaces.

Matthew Pull, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “To me the standout statistics from this report are that only 38% of workers would “very likely” report an incident of work place sexual harassment, but that 71% would feel comfortable reporting such an incident to their line manager.  The first of these figures highlights how much further there is still to go to bring an end to sexual harassment in the workplace, with the latter figure providing a clear signpost to employers as to how to start achieving this, though their internal structures with managers who are supported and trained in how to identify and deal with such incidents.”

The full report is available on the Acas website.