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After recently attending a HR seminar that spoke about sexual harassment in the workplace, I left  pleasantly surprised. To better protect the workforce, sexual harassment legislation changes are likely to come into play. These changes are a result of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) ongoing enquiry into the issue. The proposed changes will require businesses to have strategies and procedures in place to detect and prevent sexual harassment from ever occurring. This will be on top of the current requirement to have measures in place outlining how to respond to reports of sexual harassment fairly.

What are the stats?

The AHRC’s National Survey on Sexual Harassment Report confirmed that workplace sexual harassment has increased considerably in the last 6 years. Almost two in five women, and just over one in four men stated that they have been sexually harassed at work since 2013.

One in three people surveyed said that, they have been sexually harassed at work in the last five years, this has increased from once in five people in 2012.

Despite the increase in public concern, formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment remains low. This is despite the #MeToo movement and the requirement that businesses have reporting procedures in place. Victims are still afraid to report unwanted sexual conduct.

Reasons why sexual harassment isn’t being reported?

  • No one will believe me
  • it is not worth it
  • people will ostracise me
  • it could damage my career

Almost half of those who did make a formal report, suggested that nothing changed as a result of their complaint. This is alarming given societies stance against sexual harassment.

What can you be doing?

The survey results are a stark reminder for all business owners. We need to be actively participating in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. Although legislation is yet to be implemented, you should be looking at what preventative measures you can put in place. These measures are there to protect your employees and your business. A good start is to;

  • Have a strong Sexual Harassment Policy. Clearly define sexual harassment and the company’s stance on the issue. Outline what to do if an employee is being harassed. And finally explain repercussions of partaking in sexual harassment;
  • Conduct regular training for employees on what sexual harassment is, what to do if you are a victim and what will happen if you are a perpetrator; and
  • Conduct regular training for managers about sexual harassment and how they should deal with complaints. It is important to ensure your managers and team leaders understand the role they play in creating a zero-tolerance culture about the issue.

Make sure you take a step back, look at your own business and ask yourself, what you are doing to reduce these statistics?

Author: wattsnext Group
The wattsnext Group blog is a compilation of ideas and expertise from the entire team, past and present with a few added gems from guest authors from time to time. With this collaborative approach, we can provide you with a broader perspective and high-level expertise across the small business landscape.