One in three Australian workers have experienced sexual harassment in their workplace

One in three Australian workers have experienced sexual harassment in their workplace over the past five years, found a major survey from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

However, reporting of workplace sexual harassment remains alarmingly low at only 18 per cent.

The data showed that women were almost twice as likely than men to experience harassment, and more than three quarters of harassers were men.

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who is presenting the findings in a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday said it was unacceptable that so many Australian workers continue to experience sexual harassment.

“Though disappointing, it is not surprising that these results are similar to the previous survey’s results because most of the recommendations from the Respect@Work Report have only recently been acted on, and some are still being implemented,” she added.

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Federal parliament this week passed the Respect@Work Bill, which will create a positive duty on all employers to implement measures to prevent sexual harassment.

The survey also revealed that around only half the respondents said their employers provided information on how to report an incident and only two in five had attended training addressing sexual harassment.

Younger workers were more likely to experience sexual harassment, while other groups reporting higher than average rates included those who identified as LGBTQA+, people with an intersex variation, First Nations people and those with a disability.

At 64 per cent of people experiencing sexual harassment in this industry, the information, media and telecommunications arena reported the greatest prevalence of the disturbing issue.

Two thirds of people who said they were sexually harassed experienced negative mental health impacts, while there were also high rates of decreased job satisfaction and reduced self-esteem and confidence.

It comes as major accounting firm EY revealed in a report into its culture and sustainability that all five of the sexual harassment complaints lodged with the company were substantiated in the period.

It also showed a rise in misconduct investigations and bullying complaints compared to the previous year, with eight of bullying and harassment substantiated.

EY investigated 17 workplace issues in 2022, substantiating 13, and received a further 64 misconduct and disciplinary complaints – up from 12 and 39 respectively.

The complaints included one alleged assault, one theft, 55 relating to a breach of firm policies and seven reported due to a breach of its values.

EY Oceania chief executive David Larocca hoped the numbers reflected the willingness of people to come forward to report issues, while the company has also engaged former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick to run a review of work practices.

The firm also felt the pain of the tight job market with the firm – which employs just over 10,000 people – seeing more than one in five staff leave last year, up from 19 per cent the previous year.

The report revealed its gender pay gap had increased by 4 per cent from 2021 up to 13 per cent as the company aims to hit a target that 40 per cent of women represent its partnerships by 2025.

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