The “appalling” scale of sexual harassment in Scotland’s workplaces has been revealed in a new survey showing that one third of women have been targeted at work.

Campaigners claim the figures are a “shame on Scotland”, with legal experts saying the research shows the “harsh reality” facing the country’s female workers.

The data also reveals the huge level of under reporting of abuse, with more than two-thirds of workers who experienced or witnessed harassment choosing not to report it to their employer. Many surveyed said they were either too scared to do so or worried they would not be believed.

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Lilian Macer, convener of Unison Scotland, said: “The fact so many women have experienced sexual harassment at work is an appalling statistic and a shame on Scotland. It is not acceptable.

“Unison is the biggest women’s organisation in Scotland. We have represented and supported thousands of women who have been sexually harassed at work. And we know we are dealing with the tip of the iceberg.

“It takes a lot of strength to report sexual harassment, never mind follow through with a grievance.

“Employers should ensure they have strong sexual harassment policies, making it clear it is not acceptable, and create a culture where women feel supported to make complaints and intervene to protect their colleagues.”

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The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) also called on employers to take action, describing the figures as “shocking”.

Dave Moxham, STUC deputy general secretary, said: “Sexual harassment is a form of violence against women, and it’s happening in our workplaces all the time. It prevails in all sectors and at all levels of employment.”

He added: “Employers should hang their head in shame that such small proportion of workers feel able to take any action. Clearly far more needs to be done to create the safe environment workers need.”

The survey, carried out by pollsters Censuswide Scotland, is understood to be the first research of its kind looking specifically at Scotland.

The results showed that almost 40 per cent of workers have witnessed a colleague being sexually harassed.

Jillian Merchant, a discrimination lawyer with Thompsons Solicitors, said: "The fact that 68% of people did not report it to their employer really highlights the harsh reality of Scotland’s workplaces.

"This demonstrates that women do not have confidence that they will be believed or that their complaints will be taken seriously by their employer.

"Employers must make sure that their workplace culture has a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and that all complaints are appropriately dealt with so that more women have the confidence to report."

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Equality charity Engender added that sexual harassment in the workplace remains "pervasive".

Charity spokeswoman Emma Ritch said: "This survey suggests that a large proportion of women in Scotland face sexual harassment as a routine part of their working life, which negatively affects their sense of safety at work, wellbeing, and career.

"Most employers are failing to tackle the everyday sexism that creates the context for sexual harassment, and there are serious gaps in the response to misogyny in the workplace."

The survey also showed that men are more likely to intervene to help colleagues or raise a grievance about sexual harassment.