One in ten working women (10%) are currently being sexually harassed in the workplace. That’s according to a 2018 a report by the University of Sydney Business School titled, Women and the Future of Work: Report 1 of The Australian Women’s Working Futures Project.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are now launching a world-first independent national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. The inquiry will see a 12-month investigation carried out by sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, in an effort to turn the post-#MeToo discussions into action.
Costing nearly $1 million – with $500,000 covered by the Federal Government, the inquiry will see public consultations held in all major cities and regional centres, with Australians given the opportunity to lodge submissions. It will also examine financial consequences of women who are targeted, how technology is involved, how current laws effect women’s rights and the drivers of sexual harassment in the workplace.
As reported by the ABC, sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins has outlined the goal of the inquiry:
“The ultimate aim is we will have much better guidance on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the current climate,” Jenkins said. “[…] We will look at the effectiveness of the laws but even more importantly what is going on in workplaces.”
Following the 12-month inquiry, Kate Jenkins will deliver her recommendations for suggested changes, which will be reviewed after three years.
“Success for me will be at the end, that we come up with a new blueprint that will most certainly include many of the initiatives that are already in place, but better guidance for employers on how they can help improve the workplace,” she said.
Now Australia, the the non-profit, non-partisan organisation for people across all industries who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or intimidated at work, has welcomed the national inquiry.
“We know from research including the Australian Human Rights Commission’s surveys that workplace sexual harassment is getting worse – this is underscored by the personal stories that women and men are sharing with us,” said NOW Australia Founder Tracey Spicer.
“The need for robust research into the reality of sexual harassment and assault is important,” Spicer added. “Even more important is the need for wholesale cultural change and we are proud to have been in discussions with the Commission regarding the need to establish an inquiry to help promote that change since October last year on this.”
NOW Chair LJ Loch said the organisation is working with the Commission to affect much needed change:
“Expecting a safe workplace, expecting to be able to get to and from work safely is not an unrealistic expectation,” said Loch. “It’s something we all deserve, but is not yet something we all enjoy. NOW Australia also acknowledges the many brave women and men whose decision to speak out has paved the way for the establishment of this inquiry.”
If this article has impacted you negatively, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for confidential information, counselling and support on sexual assault.