The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the considered and constructive response to the 55 recommendations made in its 2020 Respect@Work Report on the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The Report and the Federal Government’s response, with whole of community buy in, paves the way for globally ground-breaking reform on workplace sexual harassment.
“The fact that the Government has accepted in whole, in part, in principle or noted all 55 recommendations is a credit to the thousands for Australians who participated in the National Inquiry, and those who have used their voices to call for change,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
“It provides hope to those who have experienced unsafe workplaces under the current system and for workers of the future.
“In this response the Government has committed to taking action in the areas of data and research, primary prevention, legal and regulatory reform, better workplace prevention and response and improved support, advice and advocacy. The Commission welcomes the Government’s focus on clarity, safety, prevention and evidence and is keen to see the investment to support this action in the forthcoming budget.”
Respect@Work together with 2018’s Everyone’s Business, the fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, represents the most comprehensive evidence base of the issue in Australia. The next national survey on workplace sexual harassment prevalence will be conducted in 2022.
The Commission recognises that it is critical for all levels of government, employers, industry groups, workers and unions to work together to support the cultural change needed to achieve more respectful and productive workplaces.
Throughout the National Inquiry, the Commission heard that gender inequality, along with power disparities within workplaces and across society, were key enablers of sexual harassment. Recognising these factors are an important element of addressing and preventing workplace sexual harassment.
A key recommendation, the newly established Respect@Work Council chaired by Commissioner Jenkins, will provide a coordinated mechanism for addressing workplace sexual harassment collaboratively across sectors and regulators. A Respect@Work online platform will assist businesses and employers of all sizes with information, education and resources to both prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
Strengthened protections under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and further assistance through 1800RESPECT, working women’s centres and community legal centres, will provide crucial protection and support for people who have experienced sexual harassment at work.
“It will be a missed opportunity to not introduce a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment in the Sex Discrimination Act, so I am happy to assist Government with the evidence provided to the National Inquiry as they further assess this recommendation,” Commissioner Jenkins said.
“Through my role as Chair of the Respect@Work Council and the Commission’s statutory independence and unique function as a national human rights institution, I look forward to contributing to the important work to advance reform and swiftly action many of these recommendations.”
A summary of the Respect@Work Report is available in the Community Guide on the Commission’s website.