New campaign to end sexual harassment at work

2 minutes
Author: By Our Watch media team
Posted: 18 Mar, 2024
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    National violence prevention organisation Our Watch is launching a new campaign to support business leaders to take action to prevent sexual harassment.

    The Commonwealth Government funded Lead the Change campaign aims to support workplaces to meet new regulations that require employers to actively take steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

    New data released today by Our Watch shows that up to 9 in 10 workplace leaders surveyed believe sexual harassment at work is a serious issue and should be priority for employers to address.*

    More than four million people have experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years, including 41% of all female workers. Incidents are much higher in male-dominated sectors including construction, retail, telecommunications and mining.

    From December, new legal regulations have required all employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment, representing a significant shift from responding to complaints after incidents occur.

    Federal Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot said the positive duty was a key recommendation of the Human Rights Commission’s landmark Respect@Work Report, which was led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and published in March 2020.

    “Too many women in Australia are denied the basic right of working in an environment that is free from harassment, disrespect and bullying,” said Assistant Minister Elliot.

    “We have come too far as a society to continue to allow thousands of women to be pushed out of jobs and opportunities, as a consequence of employers not demonstrating the leadership required to ensure their safety and security.

    “We are looking to industry and business leaders to take up this challenge and help us stamp out this unfair treatment, and foster equality and respect in the workplace once and for all.”

    Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Patty Kinnersly said workplace sexual harassment was unfortunately all too prevalent, but employers can lead the change in preventing it.

    “Sexual harassment happens because of sexism and disrespect,” she said. “By creating a culture of respect and equality, workplaces can prevent sexual harassment.

    “Workplaces can start by auditing their systems and processes to consider whether they directly or indirectly negatively impact men or women; they can help build their leadership team’s commitment to gender equality and respect; and they can action a step-by-step process to achieving equality and respect.”

    Our Watch offers free tools and resources to help employers.

    Ms Kinnersly said there was overwhelming evidence now about the benefits of a more gender-equal workplace.

    “Even a small increase in women in leadership roles results in reports of sexual harassment declining by more than 20% in the years that follow. This is because these employers are more likely to have more policies that support gender equality in the workplace.”

    She said gender equality not only reduces business risk but also improves efficiency, productivity, innovation, creativity and employee engagement.

    Our Watch partners with employers to support leadership in stopping workplace sexual harassment and creating workplaces where everyone is respected, supported and successful.

    This activity is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

    *Survey commissioned by Our Watch of 200 Australian business leaders working in organisations employing at least 10 employees, June 2023.

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    Our Watch

    Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms, and structures that lead to violence against women and children.