Sexual harassment at work is about power, imbalance and abuse, and it must stop.

On Thursday 25 August, Your Call and Rely were joined by a panel of experts to discuss findings from the Australian Human Right’s Commission‘s Respect@Work report, anticipated changes to the Sexual Discrimination Act and what it means for employers.

Is sexual harassment a big issue in Australian workplaces?

Your-Call-Sexual-Harassment-WorkYes, research by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2018 revealed:

  • two in five women have experienced sexual harassment at work
  • one in four men have experience sexual harassment at work
  • minorities, such as indigenous workers and people with a disability are more likely to experience sexual harassment

What does “a positive duty” mean?

Australian employers will be required show they have taken reasonable and proportionate steps to mitigate risk and discrimination. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides six minimum standards that all organisations must follow in order to comply with the positive duty under the Equal Opportunity Act. The standards require actions to be taken to both prevent and respond to discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

It’s about addressing the systemic causes of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation. Australian Human Rights Commission

Your Call’s Senior Advisor, Kirsty Harvison, explores positive duty in more detail in her article Respect@Work – know your positive duty obligations.

How can leaders build a better culture at work?

We asked our panel of experts, what can leaders do to build a better culture at work? Here are their 9 key takeaways:

  1. Counter fear of speaking up by making confidential reporting channels available.
  2. Earn trust through taking, and communicating, responsive action.
  3. Act on misconduct – too many employers continue to talk a great game in this space, but when the opportunity arises, they choose to tolerate inappropriate behaviour, especially if it involves a high performer.  Don’t miss the opportunity to send a strong message to the troops!
  4. Make it easy for bystanders – remove the discretion for bystanders to report inappropriate behaviour.  Make it mandatory for someone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour to report that conduct.  The grey then tends to go away…and it takes the pressure off your people to make the call.  It is simply a condition of their employment.
  5. Educate – one of the biggest challenges is people not being aware what constitutes or could be perceived as sexual harassment.  Nor do people know what to do if they experience or observe sexual harassment.  Consider training for managers on what to do when a concern is raised.
  6. Seek feedback – to achieve change, businesses need to recognise that they have an issue.  HR needs to start by providing data that illustrates the current state of play.
  7. Provide easy & safe reporting mechanisms – sexual harassment often goes unreported because the victims are embarrassed, and they are concerned about being victimised.  Confidential reporting mechanisms or access to independent resources that staff can use without repercussion are great way to encourage early identification of issues.
  8. Role model behaviour & engage social influencers/change champions – business leaders absolutely need to model the behaviour that we want staff to exhibit.  Additionally, consider leveraging staff to help drive and champion the behaviour you want to encourage.
  9. Encourage positive language – focus on the positive environment that you want to create and use positive language that encourage these actions and behaviours.

Watch the webinar

Watch this webinar (60 mins) and learn how to:

  • Prepare your workplace, so it complies with anticipated changes to the Sexual Discrimination Act
  • Lead your organisation through these changes and set a higher standard of conduct
  • Build a safer, more inclusive workplace free from sexual harassment, where all employees can flourish

Watch webinar


Cut It Out!

Cut It Out!, brought to you by Rely and Your Call, is a program to help leaders comply with Respect@Work and combat harassment in the workplace. Visit the Cut It Out! website to learn more.

Meet Rely

Rely is an intelligent case management platform that helps you prevent, detect and respond to workplace issues, like sexual harassment and meet your positive duty obligations. See how it works.