NHS workers including nurses and cleaners raped and groped at work, finds new report

Research reveals being leered at or subjected to offensive 'banter' were regular problems for many healthcare staff

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Thursday 20 June 2019 07:22
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Unwanted remarks and jokes were the most common complaints among 8,000 healthcare workers surveyed by the union
Unwanted remarks and jokes were the most common complaints among 8,000 healthcare workers surveyed by the union

NHS workers including nurses and cleaners have suffered "serious" sexual harassment in the workplace, including groping and rape, a new report has found.

Research by Unison revealed being leered at or subjected to offensive "banter" were regular problems for many healthcare staff.

Unwanted remarks and jokes were the most common complaints among 8,000 healthcare workers surveyed by the union.

Sexual harassment was committed by other workers, contractors or patients, said Unison.

Some victims had considered suicide or been driven to leave their job, which was adding to the staffing crisis in the health service, said the union.

Only one in five victims made a complaint to a manager - often because they did not believe anything would be done about it.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: "Staff should never have to face any kind of abuse, let alone sexually motivated insults and attacks.

"Many nurses, cleaners and administrative workers feel they have to put up with appalling behaviour as nothing will be done. This is generally because the perpetrators are in a position of power - or believe they are untouchable.

"The workplace which should be a harassment-free zone and employers who fail to act should be held to account."

Jess Phillips, a Labour MP who sits on the Women and Equalities Select Committee, will be speaking at a fringe event at Unison's conference in Liverpool on Thursday.

She said: "The #metoo movement might have attracted a lot of attention but it doesn't mean sexual harassment has gone away. It certainly hasn't for women working in public services - far from it as this research shows.

"For too many women sexual harassment is deeply entrenched in workplace culture. It needs the government to take action so employers are called to account."

The research comes after the Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently found nearly seven in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) people have been sexually harassed at work, but many feel unable to tell their employer due to a fear of being “outed” to colleagues.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said the survey of 1,001 people across England, Scotland and Wales, released last month, reveals a “hidden epidemic".

More than one in five LGBT people said they had been asked unwelcome questions about their sex life, such as how they had sex, or what their sexual “role” was. More than a quarter said they had received unwanted verbal sexual advances, such as suggesting they should have sex with someone of the opposite sex to “make [them] straight”.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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