Justice and the gender imbalance continues for women in the workplace.
Kate Jenkins who is the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has written a report, Respect @Work, which recommends a number of changes to the Sex Discrimination Act following several recent findings against leaders in the business world.
Kate Jenkins conducted a comprehensive review of sexual harassment and gendered violence.
A recent national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces found that 33% of workers had experienced sexual harassment in the previous five years but also observed that 69% of bystanders did nothing to support the victim.
A Women’s Agenda article recently set out three important recommendations from the report Respect@Work which it is hoped will bring about genuine change in the workplace. These would include firstly a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment and liability from a bystander who aids or permits another to sexually harass. Secondly to amend the Fair Work laws to specifically prohibit sexual harassment and thirdly deal with psychological health including sexual harassment.
The pressure is now on Boards to understand the National Prevention Framework and review their gender equality programs, reviewing and rewriting them if they do not meet the changes recommended by Kate Jenkins.
One critical change would impose mandatory reporting by statutory Officers which would bypass the need for victim reporting and strengthen the system of gender-based violence.
There has been shown to be a power imbalance between the harasser (79% older male) to the female under 30 years of age, often female, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, immigrant , LGBTQI or disabled, with casual work rather secure employment, who are the most likely victims of this power imbalance.
‘Perpetrator protection’ is a recognised problem as leaders are only too willing to ignore victim claims if the harasser is regarded as an asset to the business, and it becomes convenient to ignore the victim’s claims.
Boards can be expected to lead with good governance balanced with ethical responsibilities, to provide a safe workplace for all workers, free of harassment and discrimination.
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