‘Sexual Harassment Is A Societal Issue’: The New Website That Leaves Employers With Zero Excuses

Design by Louisa Cannell
At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
As Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins puts it, "Sexual harassment is not a women's issue — it is a societal issue, which every person and every workplace can contribute to addressing".
Following the government's recent commitment to implement a positive duty on employers to prevent workplace sexual harassment, there is now virtually no excuse for businesses not to take action against this behaviour as a new resource hub has been launched to help them do so.
Today the Respect@Work Council, chaired by Jenkins, launched a new website that aims to be a "one-stop-shop" of resources for employers and workers to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The website is one of the key recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report — the product of an 18-month inquiry led by Jenkins into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.
The report’s findings were based on a survey of 10,000 workers, 460 written submissions and 60 public consultations with 600 participants. Within the report were 55 recommendations for government, business and community sectors to consider. Recommendation 48 was to "deliver information, education and resources for workers and employers through an online platform."
The new site includes good-practice guides, training materials, workplace-assessment tools, information, videos, and guidance that is free and easily accessible. Jenkins says it will outline frameworks for workplaces to follow in order to ensure a safe environment for employees.
"The Respect@Work website will help employers meet their obligations to provide safe environments for workers, free from sexual harassment, with better access to protection and support," Jenkins says in an official press statement.
"Many employers already provide supportive responses when harassment occurs, but that is not enough – all employers also have a responsibility to actively prevent harassment happening in the first place, and this website will support those actions."
Of the 55 Respect@Work recommendations, one that has particularly been met with a sense of urgency from safety advocates is Recommendation 17, whereby the Sex Discrimination Act would be amended to introduce a positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
Jenkins previously told Refinery29 Australia that the current legal framework encouraged employers to deter employees from complaining and was also very confusing state to state.
"Throughout our National Inquiry into workplace sexual harassment, which resulted in the Respect@Work report, we found that our laws must move from a reactive approach that relies on individual complaints by victims to one that requires preventative action to stop sexual harassment occurring in the first place," she said.
"Respect@Work’s recommendation of introducing a positive duty in the Sex Discrimination Act is central to achieving this shift. A positive duty will align the Sex Discrimination Act with safety laws, and require employers to take proactive steps to eliminating sexual harassment in their workplace."
In September, the Albanese government committed to implementing all 55 recommendations as a matter of priority. The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 (Cth) is currently before federal parliament and will create a positive duty on employers to prevent workplace sexual harassment.
Meanwhile, the new Respect@Work website will also assist workers in understanding their rights and responsibilities, with information available for people who experience or witness workplace sexual harassment, including suggestions on how to respond to situations.
With the new bill before the parliament and this website now only a click away, workplaces can't afford to say they haven't got the resources to address sexual harassment and ensure their workers feel safe.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.
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