Labour Law & Unions News South Africa

Sexual harassment in the workplace - urban SA stats revealed

Research agency Columinate recently engaged 1000 urban South Africans to investigate the statistics behind sexual harassment in the workplace. The results reveal that South African corporations need to improve their harassment policies and procedures to ensure businesses adequately protect their employees.
Sexual harassment in the workplace - urban SA stats revealed
© Viacheslav Iakobchuk –

Topline findings

  • 30% of women and 18% of men reported having been victims of unwanted sexual advances in the workplace.
  • The harassment comes in many forms, with 15% of those who have experienced harassment reporting the advances are verbal in nature, and 38% admit that it turned physical with unwanted touching. 42% report lustful staring at body parts, and 32% report receiving messages of a sexual nature.
  • 57% of women, and 47% of men claimed that the unwanted advances came from a workplace peer.
  • 26% of women report that a boss or superior is the source of the harassment. For men, it’s the juniors, with 20% of men saying they garner unwanted attention and advances from their subordinates.

Addressing the issue

  • 39% of men, and 22% of women kept quiet about their abuse.
  • About a third of men (30%) fear that no one will believe them when they make the allegation, while almost a third of women (29%) don’t report it because they don’t believe management will do anything about it. 10% of the harassed fear retaliation if they report the matter.
  • 56% of women and 36% of men confronted their harasser.
  • Only 16% of respondents reported the incident to HR, while 10% of respondents reported it to the authorities.
  • Out of the 24% of respondents witnessing harassment in the workplace, only 34% intervened on the spot. 31% of witnesses confronted the harasser, or reported it to the organisation.

Creating, updating and enforcing policy

According to the data recorded from the 1000 urban South Africans participating in the study:

  • 51% of workplaces do not have a clear sexual harassment policy in place.
  • Only 37% of organisations have a clear process to report sexual harassment.
  • 20% of businesses employ a reporting hotline, with another 20% offering training on eliminating sexual harassment in the office.

Based on the findings, it is evident that there is more work to be done by corporate South Africa to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Companies also need to ensure that employees are aware of the procedures in place to assist those being victims of sexual harassment to report the incident without fear of retaliation or consequences for their careers. Furthermore, training should be provided to assist those who may witness sexual harassment in the workplace to intervene appropriately, offer support to the victim, and ultimately report the incident.

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