Home - Workplace sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent in Australia

UpdatesMar 04, 2019

Workplace sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent in Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fourth national survey into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces demonstrates that sexual harassment remains a significant concern for both employees and employers.

This is particularly evident when the 2018 results are contrasted with the findings of the previous 2012 survey, with many of the statistics suggesting workplace sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent.

By Hannah Pelka-Caven

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fourth national survey into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces demonstrates that sexual harassment remains a significant concern for both employees and employers.

This is particularly evident when the 2018 results are contrasted with the findings of the previous 2012 survey, with many of the statistics suggesting workplace sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent.

Key survey findings

What do the AHRC survey results mean for employers?

Against the backdrop of the #metoo movement, the results of the 2018 survey send a clear message to employers about the prevalence and concerning nature of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Apart from demonstrating the importance of employers taking a stand against sexual harassment, it also highlights the importance of ensuring that strategies for minimising risk are implemented and assessed on an ongoing basis.

Particularly worrying is the survey’s finding that 49% of those who experienced workplace sexual harassment did not report or make a complaint about it because they believed people would think they were overreacting.

Of similar concern is the finding that one of the most common reasons these individuals felt that the sexual harassment was not serious enough to make a formal complaint was that the behaviour was commonplace, or an accepted part of their workplace.

If this is the case, many employers risk significant liability.

However, there are steps that can be taken to combat this risk.

Firstly, it is important that appropriate policies and procedures are in place, and that adequate training is provided, with managers who have undergone training and will model best practice for others in the workplace.

It is also key that organisations have effective reporting systems in place which can manage complaints promptly and sensitively.

The survey also highlights the serious repercussions that 43% of sexual harassment victims face after making a complaint.

This should be of particular concern to employers, given victimisation is already unlawful under discrimination laws. This again highlights the importance of training and policies in relation to acceptable behaviours in the workplace, with education provided at all levels of the business.

Key preventative steps

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