Sexual harassment statistics show Australian workplaces still have a long way to go

12 September 2018
Shocking statistics released today by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner show Australian workplaces still have a long way to go to stamp out and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, according to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Maurice Blackburn national head of Employment Law Josh Bornstein said it was particularly concerning to see that latest survey results found fewer than one in five people made a complaint when they experienced sexual harassment at work.

“Today’s data shows a concerning and significant increase in the number of women who say they have been sexually harassed at work,” Mr Bornstein said.

“Having acted in a number of workplace sexual harassment cases this also reflects what we are seeing, particularly in light of the #metoo movement – more women want to seek help about harassment and there is a growing awareness of their rights, but unfortunately many still feel they can’t speak out within their own workplaces for fear of reprisals.

“These figures show that Australian workplaces still have a long way to go both in showing employees they will take allegations of sexual harassment seriously and support those who speak out, but also in ensuring that workplaces are doing all they can to prevent  such incidents from occurring in the first place,” he said.

Mr Bornstein said he shared concerns expressed by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner about young workers being most likely to have experienced sexual harassment.

“To see from this survey that people aged 18-29 are most likely to have experienced sexual harassment is concerning and I share the view that this category of workers are particularly vulnerable in feeling that they can safely speak out due to the nature of many of their workplaces,” Mr Bornstein said.

“Young people are more likely to work in precarious jobs, where job security is non-existent. This makes it incredibly difficult for those workers to speak out when they experience sexual harassment.”

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers are continuing to call for five key reforms to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to better support workers who come forward with complaints:

  1. Better protections for whistleblowers, including ensuring that whistleblowers are rewarded and not punished when they do speak out about sexual harassment in the workplace.
  2. Removal of six-month time limits for sexual harassment complaints to be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), in recognition that many victims of harassment can often take months or even years to feel they can come forward with a complaint.
  3. Making employers accountable, including that ensuring employers under the law take all required steps to prevent sexual harassment of their staff.
  4. Greater external oversight including ensuring companies be required to report harassment claims and statistics to their boards and to an external organisation.
  5. Removing the cap on damages that exists in NSW and that limits how much a victim can be compensated for sexual harassment – there is a need to ensure that damages in NSW are comparable with other jurisdictions in Australia.

For more information on these reforms visit: https://www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/time4reform/

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