It has been a busy year already for employers to manage changes in workplace regulations and events impacting business. New Annualised Hours rules for some Awards, more proposals by the government to deal with underpayments and Wage Theft and the impact of the bushfires and currently of COVID-19.
But the pace does not let up as we now have some of the most important proposals to change the culture of Australian workplaces, that have been seen in years.
Respect@Work:Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020) was published on 5th March by Kate Jenkins, the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner. This is the result of an inquiry set up by the government in 2018 and its 950 pages includes 55 recommendations for tackling sexual harassment in the workplace.
The findings are sobering, with the 2018 survey underpinning this report, finding:
- 71% Australians had experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime
- 43% had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (up from a third in 2012)
- Only 17% raised a formal complaint, probably because of those who did complain 19% were labelled as a troublemaker, 18% were ostracised or victimised and 17% left their employment
As a result the report now has 55 recommendations for government to act on, including:
- Introducing a positive duty to employers to prevent sexual harassment occurring
- Explicitly making sexual harassment an ‘Adverse Action’ under the Fair Work Act
- Including sexual harassment in the definition of serious misconduct
- Explicitly allowing sexual harassment to be stated as a fair reason for dismissal
- Introducing a stop sexual harassment order, simliar to the current stop bullying orders that the Fair Work Commission can impose
- Amending the Sex Discrimination Act to specifically include sexual harassment in the definition of ‘aiding or permitting’ an ulawful act
Employee Matters will watch the progress of these recommendations with interest and will keep you informed.
In the meantime, should you have any questions relating to managing sexual harassment in your workplace please let us know. If you are interested in our Appropriate Workplace Behavour training, covering sexual harassment, bullying and equal opportunties in the workplace, please contact us in March to obtain a 10% discount on the normal price.