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New report offers corporate guidance on preventing workplace sexual harassment

Discrimination Sex Discrimination
woman talking at board meeting

The Australian Human Rights Commission has today released a new report offering guidance to corporate boards and investors on preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment, in partnership with the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).

The research report, Equality Across the Board: Investing in workplaces that work for everyone, follows a survey and series of interviews with ASX200 companies. It makes a suite of recommendations for corporate boards and executive leadership, as well as investors.

Equality Across the Board provides insights into how Australian companies currently collect and use data relating to sexual harassment, and how that information is reported internally and externally.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said it provided a detailed overview of how Australian companies were currently responding to workplace sexual harassment.

“Workplace sexual harassment causes immense social and economic harm, with the annual cost to the Australian economy estimated to be $3.8 billion in 2018,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

“I welcome ACSI’s initiative in commissioning this survey and report, and their recognition of the critical role that ASX200 boards and executive management have in preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment.

“The report’s recommendations offer a blueprint for Australia’s largest corporations to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment in their workplaces and build safer, more equal workplaces for all.”

More than half (118, or 59%) of ASX200 companies participated in the research survey, and Commissioner Jenkins conducted in-depth interviews with 16 ASX200 companies. The report also draws on desktop research of existing legislative and regulatory frameworks.

The report makes six recommendations for boards and executive leaders, including that boards demonstrate visible leadership and governance over workplace culture, sexual harassment and gender equality; that directors and executive management have the skills and experience to effectively prevent and respond to sexual harassment; and that boards make gender equality a strategic priority backed by gender diversity targets.

It also makes two recommendations for investors, including that investors seek information about the frameworks in place to prevent and respond to sexual harassment within a company, and that investors advocate for improved transparency and public disclosure on sexual harassment.

The report was commissioned by ACSI following the release of the Commission’s 2020 national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment, Respect@Work, which found that one in three people had experienced sexual harassment at work in the previous five years.

Read Equality Across the Board in full here