A new survey has found that eight out of every ten workers who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report it to their employer.

The survey by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also found that of those who did report it, only one in four felt it was taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily.

The study found that 20% of sexual harassment incidents reported had taken place at a work-related social event, while a further one in seven had taken place on the phone, by email or online.

"Of all the alarming statistics thrown up by the polling, the fact that jumps out for me is the unacceptably high levels of under-reporting and dissatisfaction with their employer's action among those who do report sexual harassment," said ICTU President, Patricia King.

The national poll was conducted online earlier this month among 1,300 union members with experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which takes place today.

It focused solely on people’s experience of sexual harassment in the workplace, rather than measuring the scale of the problem and 72% of the responses were from women. 

54% of those who took part in the survey said they had been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature. 

Two in five reported receiving unwelcome verbal sexual advances in the workplace, while more than one in three had been subject to unwelcome comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes.

37% had experienced unwanted touching, such as a hand on the knee or lower back, while a similar amount had been subject to unwelcome questions or comments about their sex life.

2% reported being seriously sexually assaulted or rape at work.

In eight out of ten cases the perpetrator of the most recent incident was a man, while for more than half the harasser had been a colleague.

A third said that their direct manager or another manager was the perpetrator. 

According to Dr Laura Bambrick, Congress Social Policy Officer and lead researcher, the view of the Christmas party as the most common off-site location of workplace sexual harassment was borne out in the survey.

But she said the extent of unwanted sexual behaviour from colleagues taking place online also reported points to a growing problem in the modern workplace.

Half of respondent said they felt embarrassed by the situation, while 41% reported that they avoid certain work situations as a result.

Around a third reported that they felt less confident at work, while one in five felt it had a negative impact on their performance at work.

26% reported that the harassment had a negative impact on their mental health.

According to the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. 

Meanwhile, a separate study commissioned by Vodafone and also published on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, reveals the negative impact of domestic violence and abuse on career progression.

It found 80 million working women across 107 countries - a figure equating to approximately 15% of the female workforce - have experienced domestic violence and abuse in the past 12 months.

The study by KPMG estimates the potential loss of earnings per woman in Ireland as a result of such abuse having negative impacts on career progression to be €5,648.

€26m in economic output is lost by Irish businesses each year as a result of work absences related to domestic abuse, the research also found.