Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – A Risk Management Nightmare?
In recent months we’ve seen the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Don Burke, Kevin Spacey, and the ‘Me Too’ phenomenon spark a global conversation on harassment and abuse. Amid the almost constant stream of fresh media reports, it’s important to remember that this is not just a Hollywood problem. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is both an ordinary and everyday occurrence within Australian workplaces. Not only does it cause pain for victims, but it simultaneously breeds toxic work environments that further feed the problem.
As an employer, you need the skills to successfully identify and manage sexual harassment – because it’s unlikely your workplace is immune. A recent study found 64 per cent of female participants had experienced sexual harassment or violence in the workplace. Furthermore, 19 per cent of these women left their job because they didn’t feel safe at work. According to the latest survey from the Human Rights Commission, one in six men over the age of 15 reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last five years.
Workplaces are clearly at a tipping point, and knowing your legal obligations and managing the risks has never been more important. However, risk management in this particular area can be sensitive. That’s because sexual harassment is not always obvious, calling it out can be difficult, and creating a corporate culture where people feel they will be heard can be complicated.
However, employers can begin to reverse this culture. In fact, research has found that Management’s attitude toward sexual harassment plays a critical role in its prevalence. Organisational culture influences whether a victim will make a claim, whether the guilty party will be punished, and whether or not the victim will be taken seriously by superiors and colleagues.
This free webinar will provide practical scenarios that will to help you identify sexual harassment and manage the risk of claims. Because irrespective of your legal obligation, successfully managing sexual harassment in your workplace is in your best interest. It benefits victims, improves productivity and organisational culture, and can positively impact your bottom line.
Brian Jackson, Special Counsel, Moray & Agnew Lawyers
Brian Jackson is a Senior Lawyer specialising in employment law and industrial relations. Brian advises, represents and appears as counsel for clients across the education, mining, construction, energy, financial services and health sectors. He works closely with employers/insured who need assistance in defending what can often be difficult workplace issues while at the same time appreciating the commercial importance of resolution of claims.
Sarah O’Leary, myosh
In her role as myosh Product Development Manager, Sarah O’Leary engages with clients and HSEQ professionals to identify organisational requirements and HSEQ trends. Through extensive client feedback, the myosh team established a need for a comprehensive software solution that makes it easier for organisations to manage and improve mental health issues in the workplace.
What is sexual harassment?
Broadly speaking, sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. According to the federal Sex Discrimination Act, sexual harassment has occurred when:
• a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed;
• or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;
• in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
An important note to here is that it is irrelevant whether the harasser considers the act as harassment.