Kate Jenkins’ workplace sexual harassment inquiry recommends overhaul


The survey also found less than one in five people (17 per cent) who had been harassed made a formal complaint. Ms Jenkins noted many Australians did not want to complain, as they could be alienated at work, not believed, or fired.

The report makes 55 recommendations, including the addition of a “positive duty” to protect employees against sexual harassment.

Ms Jenkins said too many employers had been taking a “tick-a-box” approach, “something to say it’s not our fault”.

The new duty would require all employers – with the possible exception of micro-businesses – to take “reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, as far as possible”.

This would be accompanied by enforcement powers for the Australian Human Rights Commission, to assess employers’ compliance with this positive duty.

The report also recommends that “liability for sexual harassment be extended to those who aid or permit another person to sexually harass a person”, explaining this would promote “consistency” in the Sex Discrimination Act.

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Ms Jenkins urged all employers to create safe workplaces, regardless of their industry or size.

“[Sexual harassment] occurs in every industry, in every location, and at every level. It is not just a few bad apples.”

Other recommendations in “Respect@Work” include a national campaign to change behaviours that drive sexual harassment, as well as specific education campaigns for young people on workplace rights.

It also wants the AHRC to have the power to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination, including the production of documents and examination of witnesses. On top of this, it is seeking a new disclosure process that would enable victims of historical workplace sexual harassment matters to have their experiences hears and documented “with a view to promoting recovery”.

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Minister for Women Marise Payne and Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government will “now take the time to carefully consider the report,” noting state governments and the private sector “also have a key role to play”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil called on the Morrison government to implement the recommendations in full.

She said employers “must be held to account to meet their obligations to their workers”.

Employer association, Ai Group said employers do not tolerate sexual harassment in their workplaces, “but more can and should be done to address the problem”.

However, chief executive Innes Willox cautioned recommended changes to the current legal framework “raise many complex issues and will require careful consideration”.

Women’s safety advocates Our Watch described the report as a “solid way forward” and said a holistic approach was needed, including primary prevention and reforming legal and support systems for victims.

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