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16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Isabel’s story of sexual harassment at work

November 30, 2022

This week we are marking 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence by shedding a light on the widespread issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, sharing the experiences of some of the women in low-paid and insecure work who have been involved in our research and calling for better protections against sexual harassment at work.

Today we are sharing the story of Isabel, a cleaner. 42% of participants in our research into the cleaning sector reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.

Isabel’s story

TW: sexual harassment

Isabel worked for a cleaning company where the supervisor sexually harassed her and multiple other migrant women workers.

He started calling me at three in the morning saying things like “I don’t even know why I’m calling you, I just want to hear your voice’.

The supervisor would abuse the insecure immigration status of his workers, knowing they would be unable to complain due to not having the right to work in the UK.

He would hire people without documents. He would bring them into the company. The women, if they didn’t agree to that treatment, he would fire them. 

Isabel eventually left because of the harassment. She now works for another outsourced cleaning company, where she has also experienced sexual harassment. The perpetrator was a colleague, who was also her ex-partner.

He would intimidate me in the toilets, and then I had to submit a complaint. 

Isabel complained to the cleaning company, but her complaints were not taken seriously, even when she took them to a trade union.

The manager ignored me; the regional manager also ignored me. I joined a trade union, and their response was, “What are you complaining about, he is your ex”, justifying that kind of sexual harassment.

Read more about our work on sexual harassment in the workplace here.