A survey conducted by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has revealed almost 20 per cent of respondents have either witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in the workplaces, in both the public and private sector.
The findings come after the Federal Government’s belated response to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Respect at Work report, which itself found that sexual harassment was a pervasive issue in workplaces across Australia.
Based on the recommendations of the AHRC to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment, the CPSU has also developed a new framework for ensuring safe and respectful workplaces.
Conducted during March and April 2021, the survey involved more that 3,000 participants from workplaces including the Commonwealth, ACT and Northern Territory public sectors, CSIRO, ABC, Australia Post and Telstra; and sought information regarding experience of sexual harassment and any concerns regarding existing workplace arrangements including policies, training, reporting, communication, leadership and culture.
The results reveal that 16 per cent of respondents have experienced and 19 per cent witnessed sexual harassment in their current workplace. More then two thirds (69 per cent) of respondents who either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment subsequently failed to report the incident or behavior.
“What does that say about worker’s faith in the processes that are supposed to protect them?” asked CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly.
“The Morrison government should be taking urgent practical action on sexual harassment and gendered violence to make all workplaces respectful and safe. But we are not going to wait for this government to act – we simply don’t have time.”
The AHRC report identified seven domains for recommendations aimed to prevent (improved leadership, risk assessment and transparency, culture and knowledge) and respond (improved support, reporting, measuring and evaluation) to sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Based on these domains, the CPSU has developed a ‘framework for ensuring safe and respectful workplaces’ and are calling on all federal departments and agencies to sign up and engage with our members on its implementation right now,” Ms Donnelly said.
The CPSU has written to Australian Public Service (APS) Commissioner Peter Woolcott seeking a meeting to discuss the framework to ‘brief you on the findings of the union’s survey and Framework and to work with you to address these matters in APS workplaces.’
There is growing speculation that the Federal Government will use May’s federal budget to announce new measures to support women after receiving widespread and sustained criticism following accusations of sexual assault and harassment in Parliament and late response to the AHRC report.
“The Morrison government failed to respond to the Respect at Work report for more than a year and the belated response falls short of a commitment to fully implement all 55 recommendations,” Ms Donnelly said.
“The problem is not that women are failing to propose solutions. The problem is that the government and employers are failing to listen and act.”