A RECENT national survey showing one in five people are still experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace has highlighted the importance of an effective prevention and response plan. Xuedan Wang, Human Resources Advisor for Asia Iron Pty Ltd highlights key findings and provides some recommendations for AMMA members.
Working without fear: Results of the sexual harassment national telephone survey 2012 was launched on 30 October 2012 by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The third nation-wide survey conducted by the Commission since 2003 aimed to analyse trends and identify the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces over the past five years.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the results substantiate that sexual harassment still persists in Australian workplace with one in five people experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years.
"Progress in addressing workplace sexual harassment has stalled in this country," Ms Broderick said.
Survey findings indicate that workplace policies and procedures to manage sexual harassment are working, with more people coming forward with faced with sexual harassment and the resolution of complaints being mostly positive.
Nearly half of the respondents reported that that after a formal complaint was made, the sexual harassment stopped and the majority of the complaints were resolved quickly with satisfactory process.
Over half of bystanders reportedly took actions to prevent or reduce the harm of sexual harassment.
Key findings from the survey include:
Sexual harassment is an ongoing and common occurrence, particularly in workplaces
- Over one in five (21%) respondents have been sexually harassed, and the majorities (68%) of those people were harassed in the workplace.
Awareness of sexual harassment remains limited
- Almost one in five (18%) respondents indicated that they had not been sexually harassed based on the legal definition, but went on to report experiencing behaviours that are likely to constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment commonly consists of non-physical behaviours and occurs through a range of different mediums
- The most common types of behaviours reported were non-physical, including sexually suggestive comments or offensive jokes (55%), intrusive questions (50%) and inappropriate staring or leering (31%) in person, via mobile phones, through email/the Internet and social media.
Sexual harassment affects both women and men, but predominately women
- One-third of women (33%) have been sexually harassed, compared to less than one in ten (9%) men.
- A quarter of women (25%) and one in six men (16%) have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years.
Sexual harassment was most common in large workplaces
- Sexual harassment was most likely to occur in large workplaces (41%), followed by small (33%) and medium (24%) workplaces.
Harassers were most likely to be a co-worker of the person harassed
- Harassers were most likely to be a co-worker (52%) of the person harassed, followed by their boss or employer (11%) and their supervisor or manager (11%).
The majority of people sexually harassed do not report it or seek support or advice
- Only one in five (20%) respondents who were sexually harassed made a formal report or complaint.
- One-third (29%) of respondents who were sexually harassed sought support or advice.
Targets of sexual harassment were more likely to seek support from their employer or its representatives than from external advisors
- Managers and supervisors (42%), co-workers (18%) and employers/the boss (16%) were the most common sources of support and advice following sexual harassment in the workplace.
Reporting can be an effective and efficient way to stop sexual harassment and get other positive outcomes
- Almost half (45%) of respondents indicated that the sexual harassment stopped after they made a formal report or complaint.
More people experienced negative consequences as a result of reporting sexual harassment
- Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents who reported sexual harassment indicated that their complaint had a negative impact on them (e.g. victimisation, demotion).
A majority of bystanders took action to prevent or reduce the harm of sexual harassment
- Just over half (51%) of respondents took action after witnessing or learning about the sexual harassment of another person in their workplace.
AMMA proposes the following recommendations to employers for addressing sexual harassment issue in the workplace:
- Develop and review policies, complaint procedures and counseling programs to create a good avenue for monitoring and reporting;
- Schedule regular organisation- wide sexual harassment training programs to ensure both new starters and existing employees are aware of the issue and the company's policy and position;
- Identify internal representatives to handle sexual harassment complaints;
- Keep all sexual harassment complaints confidential;
- Provide education to supervisors and managers on how to handle sexual harassment complaints as well as how to conduct employee counseling;
- Develop or review social media policies to ensure alignment with anti-sexual harassment policy; and
- Encourage formal complaints and reporting by developing procedures to prevent victimization.
AMMA consultants are available to assist members with the development of robust policies, procedures and training. Contact AMMA on (03) 9614 4777.
This article was written by Xuedan Wang, Human Resources Advisor for Asia Iron Pty Ltd. Xuedan has been recently seconded to AMMA as part of the AMMA graduate/advisor secondment program. If your company would like to participate in the program please contact Nikki Page in the AMMA Perth office on 08 6218 0700.