Kristy Edser and Amanda Watt (Lexology)
Safework Australia has released its guide on preventing workplace sexual harassment. We review the Guide's key processes to minimise the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace and what business should do.
Start managing sexual harassment in the workplace differently.
Safework Australia has released its guide on preventing workplace sexual harassment. We explore the Guide's key processes to minimise the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace and what business should do.
SafeWork Australia's 'Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment' (Guide) is significant. For the first time, employers have national guidance from Safework Australia on an issue that impacts the health of too many workers each year.
State safety regulators have previously confirmed that sexual harassment is a work health and safety (WHS) issue. Yet the lack of any published guidance or a Code of Conduct has meant many employers have never properly considered sexual harassment as a WHS risk
35 years on, sexual harassment remains
While it has been over 35 years since Australia introduced the Sex Discrimination Act, sexual harassment remains prevalent in Australian workplaces.
In 2018 the Australian Human Rights Commission commenced their national inquiry into sexual harassment. The result was the Respect@Work report released in 2020. The report confirmed what many suspected - that sexual harassment is a systemic issue:
1 in 3 workers stated they had been sexually harassed at work in the last 5 years
Only 17% of workers who were sexually harassed reported it to their employer
In the report, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, made 55 recommendations. Two significant recommendations:
sexual harassment to be properly recognised as a WHS issue and for guidance to be developed for a Code of Conduct
that the federal legislation be amended to impose a positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, as far as possible.
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