Sexual harassment in the workplace continues to rise

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released its fourth national survey that details the nature and extent of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

In her report, Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner said: “The results of the survey are perhaps more timely and relevant in 2018 than ever before, with the huge surge in public concern about sexual harassment generated by the #MeToo movement around the world, including in Australia.” In June this year, the AHRC announced a National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment.

The Inquiry will be headed up by Ms Jenkins and has had wide political, union, business and community support. The Inquiry is expected to report back in September 2019. The survey release and the inquiry point to an increasing demand for Australian workplaces to become safer for everyone. With more than 10,000 Australians surveyed, five times the number from previous years, the results of this survey will be more detailed and precise.

The key findings of this survey were:
  • 85 per cent of Australian women had been sexually harassed at some point in their lifetimes;
  • Overwhelmingly perpetrators over the past five years were male (79 per cent);
  • In the last 12 months, 23 per cent of women compared to 16 per cent of men have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment;
  • Most common form of harassment was sexually suggestive comments or jokes;
  • 81 per cent of workplace harassment is reported from the Information, Media and Telecommunications industry;
  • Fewer than one in five people made a formal complaint or report about being sexually harassed; and
  • Only 35 per cent of bystanders acted to prevent or reduce the harm of the harassment.
Professionals Australia’s Women in STEM Professionals report found that:
  • Over half of the respondents (51.3 per cent) reported having been directly discriminated based on gender during their employment;
  • Of those who had experienced discrimination, only 21.4 per cent of respondents had sought advice on dealing with the matter;
  • 17.5 per cent had left their workplace; and
  • 54.4 per cent took no action at all.
Many victims from the National survey and the STEM report ignored their harassment for fear of rocking the boat or as one respondent from our survey commented: “complaining has not been effective. Also, its risky.” To move towards a safe work environment, ideally diversity and inclusion should be part of an organisation’s core values, sexual harassment policies need to be in place, managers must be accountable for their implementation and reporting harassment should not be penalised and the implementation process must be confidential, transparent, objectively heard and administered by trained personnel.

Only then can the disincentives or penalties associated with reporting harassment be minimised or removed.

You can view all our recommendations via the DOWNLOAD link below

DOWNLOAD: Professionals Australia Women in STEM Professions Report 
AHRC: Everyone’s business: Fourth National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 
Sexual harassment at work is on the rise in Australia, the Human Rights Commission says 
Foreword: Sex Discrimination Commissioner 
INQUIRY: Australia to launch national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment 
Sexual harassment in the workplace - INFOGRAPHICS