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Time for respect: One third of workers say they have experienced sexual harassment

Sex Discrimination
Content type: Media Release
Topic(s): Sex Discrimination

A major survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found one in three workers report having experienced sexual harassment in their workplace over the past five years.

The survey found that reporting of workplace sexual harassment remains alarmingly low, at only 18%. Women (41%) were far more likely than men (26%) to experience harassment, and more than three quarters of harassers were men (77%).

The survey, Time for respect: the fifth national survey of workplace sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, comes four years after the previous national survey found similar rates of experiences of workplace sexual harassment reported.

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who will present the findings in a speech to the National Press Club today, said: “It is unacceptable that so many Australian workers continue to experience sexual harassment.”

“Though disappointing, it is not surprising that these results are similar to the previous survey’s results because most of the recommendations from the Respect@Work Report have only recently been acted on, and some are still being implemented."

Federal parliament this week passed the Respect@Work Bill, which will create a positive duty on all employers to implement measures to prevent sexual harassment.

“The actions that governments and workplaces around Australia are now taking will have an impact, but it will take time. I urge them to continue implementing change now, so that results of the next national survey may be greatly improved,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

“It is concerning that only 18% of sexual harassment incidents are reported. The website provides information for workers and businesses on how to respond to incidents and resources to help create respectful workplaces, free from harassment.”

The survey, conducted for the Commission by Roy Morgan Research, found only half the respondents said their employers provided information on how to report an incident, and even fewer (two in five) said they had attended training addressing sexual harassment.

Encouragingly, the survey indicated growing appetite for change. Almost three quarters of people believed their organisation’s leaders were committed to ensuring a safe working environment free from sexual harassment.

Younger workers were more likely to experience sexual harassment. Other groups reporting higher than average rates included those who identified as LGBTQA+ (46%), people with an intersex variation (70%), First Nations people (56%), and those with a disability (48%).

Sexual harassment continues to occur in all industries and workplace settings, at all levels of seniority, and in a wide range of professional contexts. The survey report provides breakdowns for various industries. The Information, Media and Telecommunications industry returned the greatest prevalence (64%).

Two thirds (67%) of people who were sexually harassed experienced negative mental health impacts, and there were high rates of decreased job satisfaction (62%) and reduced self-esteem and confidence (57%).

The Respect@Work Report, which the Commission published in March 2020, made 55 recommendations to governments, the private sector and the community for reforms to help prevent and address workplace sexual harassment. The Federal Government has committed to implementing all recommendations from the report.

Commissioner Jenkins’ National Press Club speech will be televised on the ABC from 12:30pm AEST. It will be available to view afterwards on ABC iView or YouTube. Transcripts are available to order through the National Press Club website.

You can download a copy of the ‘Time for Respect’ report on the Commission’s website.

Media contact: or 0437 133 671