Research

National inquiry recommends new duties on employers to manage s-xual harassment

Not research as such, but rather the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission report following the national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.

The Commission has recommended the model WHS laws be amended to control psychosocial risks, in line with the Boland review, and that a WHS Code of Practice on sexual harassment be developed.  The inquiry also recommended the Fair Work Commission be given power to issue "stop sexual harassment" orders, equivalent to stop-bullying orders in its anti-bullying jurisdiction.

In its 932-page report Respect@Work, the Commission says Australia's model WHS laws already impose a general positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment as part of their broader safety obligations.  But the "lack of an express WHS Regulation, Code of Practice or guideline means that workplace sexual harassment is not being addressed by WHS regulators or employers in a consistent, robust or systemic way", it stresses.

"There is an urgent need to raise awareness that sexual harassment is a work health and safety issue," it says. In her foreword to the report, Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, notes that Australia was once at the forefront of tackling sexual harassment globally, but no more. She says "Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue: it is a societal issue, which every Australian, and every Australian workplace, can contribute to addressing. Workplace sexual harassment is not inevitable. It is not acceptable. It is preventable."

The inquiry has made 55 recommendations, including that WHS ministers agree to amend the model WHS regulations to prescribe control measures for psychological risk, as recommended by Marie Boland in her review of the model WHS laws, and "develop guidelines on sexual harassment, with a view to informing the development of a Code of Practice"

The Commission acknowledges that "this will require a cultural and institutional shift in a field that has historically focused on physical harm and risks". It recommends that Safe Work Australia and safety regulator staff undergo training on the "nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment".
Read more: Respect@Work - Report and Community Guide, Australian Human Rights Commission. Source: OHSAlert

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