Published: 02/12/2022
Category: Women To The Front
Published: 02/12/2022
Category: Women To The Front

Sexual harassment is not inevitable: it is preventable, says Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins – and finally, we have a government who is doing something about it.  

Just last week the [email protected] Bill was passed in Parliament, signaling the Government’s firm commitment to gender equality by ensuring women can earn a living safe from sexual harassment. 

In swift succession to this long overdue policy move, the Government has also moved to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (109) – which recognises every worker’s fundamental right to be free from all forms of violence and harassment at work. 

How fitting that these hard won policy victories have finally come to fruition against the backdrop of the International Day for Elimination for Violence against Women last Friday, as well as on the back of the similarly union-won campaign for ten days paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave. 

Public outcry and collective action have been indispensable to the fight against workplace sexual harassment. And behind the wave of progress in Australian workplaces have been thousands of workers in their unions, pushing every step of the way. 

What real changes will be made?

Research shows that sexual harassment has lasting consequences on women’s health, career and retirement, and one in three workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.  

The system placed the onus on the victim to take action against violence and sexual harassment that had been committed against them.  

With this new change, the responsibility is on employers to ensure workers are safe from sexual harassment – not only from when they step foot into their workplace, but on their way to and from work, and in all communications regarding work.   

The new laws address a number of key recommendations from Kate Jenkins’ 2020 report on workplace sexual harassment, like prohibiting hostile work environments, supporting systemic inquiries into discrimination, and providing costs protections for court action in sexual harassment cases.  

This will make combatting sexual harassment more accessible so that harmful behaviour isn’t swept under the rug anymore. These policy victories reflect a movement toward true employer accountability when it comes to workplace sexual harassment – because no one should have to choose between their livelihood and their safety.  

In the same way that workers expect to operate in physically safe structural environments, built and maintained to rigorous codes and laws, they also have a right to expect robust, ironclad protection against sexual harassment.  

These new laws and conventions, fought for with collective action and union initiative, will ensure these rights are set in stone. They are an investment in the future of working women, and that is cause for celebration.

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Decades of progress for women’s workplace safety in one week

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Decades of progress for women’s workplace safety in one week