Systemic Harassment: A Look Inside Australian Workplaces

While serious allegations of sexual misconduct and rape has been sprawled across the news recently, it is a theme that unfortunately is not new, and not uncommon.
In order to understand the seriousness of the situation some men and women can be victims to, we need to be able to have uncomfortable conversations and expose the oppressive behaviour that weighs heavily over them, but more importantly understand why it is happening and what we can do to protect employees.

Ideally, sexual misconduct should not be commonplace, however “Workplace sexual harassment is prevalent and pervasive: it occurs in every industry, in every location and at every level in Australian workplaces.” – Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.

This is particularly rampant for women. According to Kate Jenkins, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, approximately 1 in 3 workers in 2018 had experienced sexual harassment in the last five years.

The College of Law in Sydney held an audience with Ms Jenkins in February this year, which provided a valuable perspective on practical ways that we can work together to stamp out sexual harassment, particularly in the legal profession. She explained that Australia’s recent national inquiry was propelled by the widespread #metoo movement. This movement highlights the importance of sexual harassment training and awareness being targeted at people in positions of power, rather than focusing on employees as we have done in the past. Due to the often systemic nature of workplace sexual harassment.

Ms Jenkins emphasised that a “top-down” approach is more effective in dealing with the often systemic nature of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The legal profession by nature can often act as a breeding ground for sexual harassment. As Ms Jenkins explained, law firms are commonly hierarchal, with men in the majority of senior roles. The job involves long hours, social events and an environment where your reference from a superior is critical for career progression. Hence, a significant power disparity emerges which makes it easy for sexual harassment to occur, and difficult for victims to feel empowered to speak up.

Alongside better training at a management level and anonymous reporting to gain systemic trend information, the Respect@Work report recommends three broad regime changes to the legal and regulatory framework. These are:

  1. Amending the Sex Discrimination Act (1984), and its State and Territory equivalents, to shift the responsibility from employees having to raise complaints onto employers to actively prevent sexual harassment from occurring.
  1. Utilising the Work Health and Safety Act (2011) more than previously, including new guidance provided by Safe Work Australia.
  1. Updating the Fair Work Act (2009) to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as implementing the same idea as a ‘stop bullying order’ for circumstances of sexual harassment.

A continued focus on improving the way in which we deal with sexual harassment on a domestic level willhopefully mitigate consequences such as high staff turnover, negative workplace culture and reputational damage to individuals and businesses. Ultimately, sexual harassment awareness training needs to be targeted towards managers to allow a positive workplace culture to flow through all levels of the organisation.

A Human Agency have the extensive experience to help businesses navigate times of challenging employee retentions and create preventative approaches. By deep diving into organisational culture, A Human Agency sets businesses up to thrive.

Confidential consultation

We offer an initial, confidential appointment tailored to address your questions and guide you in the right direction, whether you're embarking on a new HR journey or seeking expert advice and guidance on complex workplace issues.

This allows us to learn about your business goals and objectives; and for you to get to know our team and how we can support you to achieve those goals.

Our sessions are designed to:

  • understand your specific questions, covering your current situation, potential challenges in culture, behaviour, performance, diversity or inclusion, and any other concerns you may have.
  • Collaboratively assess your current landscape and outline actionable steps towards meaningful change, providing assurance and support along the way.
  • Most importantly establish a foundation for working together. We want you to feel confident that we are the right HR partner for you, because this is your business’ future you are about to invest in, so we need to get it right. 

We look forward to meeting you.

ABOUT

A-HA connects business and people in order to realise genuine value and worth. We have pioneered a new type of agency which revolutionises the human resource industry through our people, products and insight.

A-HA!

Sydney Office Suite 1, 281 Pacific Hwy North Sydney, 20600491 235 263Email Us

ABN: 21 600 655 365

© A Human Agency | A-HA! and www.a-ha.com.au, Copyright 2015-2024

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to A Human Agency and www.a-ha.com.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The team at A Human Agency would like to acknowledge and pay respects to the traditional custodians of the land where our office is based, the Cammeraygal and Wallumedegal peoples of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal people and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of NSW.