Three-quarters of employees experiencing sexual harassment did not report it to employers, trade unionists have said.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of those who did report felt it was not dealt with satisfactorily – some reported being treated less favourably as a result.
The Christmas party has long been the most common off-work site of sexual harassment and trade union leaders said there was an unacceptably high level of under-reporting.
The fear of a negative impact on their career or of not being believed or taken seriously were common reasons for not pursing a complaintClare Moore
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) equality officer Clare Moore said: “However, the extent of unwanted sexual behaviour from colleagues taking place online also reported points to a growing problem in the modern workplace.”
A total of 29% reported that their most recent experience of sexual harassment had taken place at a work-related social event, while 11% reported being harassed by phone or text, and 9% by email, online or social media.
Ms Moore said: “While the #MeToo movement has shed light on the hidden problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault at work and empowered women to speak out, the fear of a negative impact on their career or of not being believed or taken seriously were common reasons for not pursing a complaint.
“Trade unions and employers play an important role in preventing violence and harassment against women at work.”
ICTU is calling for the UK Government to ratify international labour standards mandating it to take steps to address violence against women including at work.
Employers must act urgently and proactively to tackle this problemOwen Reidy
The opinion poll of 638 union members with experience of sexual harassment at work was conducted online from November 1 to 14.
Around 73% of responses were from women. The survey focused exclusively on experience of sexual harassment in the workplace, rather than measuring the scale of the problem.
ICTU assistant general secretary Owen Reidy said: “Sexual harassment in work is illegal and there is a responsibility on employers to prevent sexual harassment and protect their employees.
“However, trade unions are concerned that duties on employers do not go far enough.
“Employers must act urgently and proactively to tackle this problem – raise awareness such behaviour is unacceptable and may be subject to discipline, implement a comprehensive policy with an associated programme of training, set up proper, timely procedures for reporting, and support the victims and deal with the perpetrators.
“There needs to be real consequences for those employers who don’t comply with their obligations. Everyone has the right to respect and wellbeing at work.”