Since the rise of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment scandals continue to make headlines.
But while it appears to be an issue predominantly facing Hollywood stars and media moguls, and high-profile business and political leaders, according to findings from the 2018 Australian Human Rights Commission, it’s an issue that is familiar to everyday, working Australians.
Prevalence in the workplace
The fourth national report on the prevalence, nature and reporting of workplace sexual harassment in Australia has found that one in three (33 per cent) people working in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, with women more likely to have been sexually harassed (46 per cent) than men (29 per cent).
Industries with the highest rates of sexual harassment were found to be retail (42 per cent) and, accommodation and food service (39 per cent).
“It’s time for those at the top of every business, even small business owners to take strong action against sexual harassment in the workplace,” Senior Employment Relations Adviser Isabella Zamorano said.
“The matter highlights that at all levels, professions and industries, sexual harassment is a risk and cannot be taken lightly – not only for the victims but for the businesses that also risk reputational damage and disruption.”
How to stamp out workplace sexual harassment
Ms Zamorano advises four key steps to stamp up sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Zero tolerance – ensure a zero-tolerance stance on sexual harassment in the workplace and embed this formally into workplace policies and procedures.
- Staff training – train staff around workplace sexual harassment policies and procedures, and around how to speak up to report incidents.
- Safe and confidential environment – create a safe and confidential environment to encourage the reporting of incidents.
- Investigate all claims – ensure all claims are investigated properly.
“Sexual harassment is set to take greater prominence in the world of employment relations and it’s important that you have the relevant policies and procedures in place to protect your people and your business,” Ms Zamorano said.
“It’s time for business leaders to be proactive and lead the path to change.”