26 September 2023

Workplace survey finds women harassed

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A major survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has found that one in three workers experienced sexual harassment in their workplace over the past five years.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the survey Time for respect: Fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces found that reporting of workplace sexual harassment remained alarmingly low, at only 18 per cent.

Commissioner Jenkins said women (41 per cent) were far more likely than men (26 per cent) to experience harassment, and more than three quarters of harassers were men (77 per cent).

She said the AHRC’s previously national survey, conducted four years ago, found similar rates of experiences of workplace sexual harassment.

The Time for Respect report came as the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation (Respect@Work) Bill 2022 passed in Parliament, which is to create a positive duty on all employers to implement measures to prevent sexual harassment.

“Though disappointing, it is not surprising that these results are similar to the previous survey’s results because most of the recommendations from the Respect@Work Report have only recently been acted on, and some are still being implemented,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

“The actions that Governments and workplaces around Australia are now taking will have an impact, but it will take time,” she said.

“I urge them to continue implementing change now, so that results of the next national survey may be greatly improved.”

Commissioner Jenkins said it was concerning that only 18 per cent of sexual harassment incidents were reported and that only half of survey respondents said their employers provided information on how to report an incident, “even fewer (two in five) said they had attended training addressing sexual harassment”.

She said younger workers were more likely to experience sexual harassment, along with those who identified as LGBTQA+ (46 per cent), people with an intersex variation (70 per cent), First Nations people (56 per cent), and those with a disability (48 per cent).

“Encouragingly, the survey indicated growing appetite for change,” the Commissioner said.

“Almost three quarters of people believed their organisation’s leaders were committed to ensuring a safe working environment free from sexual harassment.”

She said sexual harassment continued to occur in all industries and workplace settings, at all levels of seniority, and in a wide range of professional contexts.

Commissioner Jenkins said two thirds (67 per cent) of people who were sexually harassed experienced negative mental health impacts, and there were high rates of decreased job satisfaction (62 per cent) and reduced self-esteem and confidence (57 per cent).

The AHRC’s 326-page Time for Respect survey report can be downloaded at this PS News link.

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