Sexual Harassment in 2019

Libby Pallot and Abbey Burns

Libby Pallot and Abbey Burns recently presented on sexual harassment in the workplace.

An extraordinary number, one in three people, have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years… this is a problem that affects millions of Australians and we, collectively, have a big job ahead to tackle the problem. – Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, AHRC National Workplace Sexual Harassment Survey, August 2018

It is clear that sexual harassment at work is still rife, despite legal prohibition since the Commonwealth introduced the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

However, we are seeing indications of positive cultural change, with a shift towards calling out inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and elsewhere. The media is holding employers to higher standards. Failure to protect a worker from sexual harassment attracts significant reputational, as well as legal, risks.

When thinking about how to manage sexual harassment in workplaces in 2019, we recommend that employers implement both proactive and reactive steps, with a particular focus on changing workplace culture around raising concerns.

Proactive steps can include reviewing sexual harassment policy and worker training programs to ensure they comply with current standards and reduce the likelihood that the employer will be held vicariously liable for a worker’s sexual harassment.It is also useful to consider training for bystanders and to think about whether the workplace culture, or even the language used in a policy, creates a barrier to raising sexual harassment issues internally.

Reactive steps can include thinking about how reports of sexual harassment are handled, the use of informal resolution strategies and the range of outcomes that may flow from a finding of sexual harassment.

If you would like support to implement measures or make these changes in your workplace, please contact the Russell Kennedy Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team. We provide tailored sexual harassment training for managers and workers.

If you'd like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's insights, please sign up here.

View related insights

office-worker-measuring-temperature-of-business-people-with-face-mask 360 x 240

Can employers make vaccinations and temperature checks mandatory in today’s climate?

3 Jun 2021

As the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout progresses, many employers are asking whether they can direct their employees to be vaccinated. At the time of writing this article, the general stance of ...

View
Consoling elderly person - Aged Care 360x240

Reforms to strengthen protections against the use of restraints in aged care to align with protections in disability

2 Jun 2021

The Federal Government has just released the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021 which is due to commence on 1 July 2021.

View
warehouse-and-industry-concept-in-australia-working-in-small-business-360 x 240

The not-so-omnibus bill: what employers need to know about new changes to the Fair Work Act

9 Apr 2021

The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Act 2021 (Cth) (the Act) proposed a range of significant changes to Australia’s industrial relations system. In late March, ...

View