December 18, 2018

World's-first national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment

As thousands of women take to social media to share their stories of sexual harassment as part of the #metoo movement, the Australian Human Rights Commission is launching the world’s first national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.

It comes in the wake of last year’s report into sexual assault at Australian universities, which revealed 87 per cent of students who were sexually assaulted did not make a formal report or complaint to their university.

Sexual harassment is described as any unwanted or uninvited sexual behavior that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating. It is against the law, yet every year sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most common types of complaints received by the Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women with 1 in 5 experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace at some time in their careers. However, 1 in 20 men also report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The wide use of mobile phones, email and social networking websites is creating new spaces where sexual harassment may occur.

Commissioner Kate Jenkins launched the inquiry in June saying it ‘will involve an in-depth examination of sexual harassment in the workplace, nation-wide consultation and extensive research. Importantly, the Inquiry will provide employees, employers and all members of the public with an opportunity to participate in developing a solution to ensure Australian workplaces are safe and respectful for everyone,”

The 12-month inquiry will not consider individual complaints, but take a systemic approach. It will consider:

  • The economic impact of sexual harassment
  • The drivers of sexual harassment
  • The role of technology and social media in both perpetuating and identifying sexual harassment
  • Means of preventing sexual harassment in workplaces
  • Best practice approaches
  • And identify any necessary legislative change.

The AEU will be making a submission to the Inquiry. The Inquiry will not be considering individual complaints but if you would like to contribute information about systemic issues or improvements, please contact the AEU Federal Women’s Officer, Olivia Brown, in confidence on (03) 9693 1800 or