Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has called for legislative reforms to enable employers to sack perpetrators of sexual harassment more easily. In their submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry, Ai Group argued that the unfair dismissal provisions within the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) are failing employers and stifling efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct. Innes Willox, Chief Executive of Ai Group, said that “unfair dismissal decisions of the Fair Work Commission are very inconsistent and provide employers with little confidence that a decision to remove an employee from the workplace will not be overturned”. In its submission, Ai Group said that the provisions “unduly favour procedural technicalities over the welfare of victims and safe workplaces”. Mr Willox pointed to a number of cases where employees who distributed pornography to colleagues were held to be unfairly dismissed. Ai Group condemned these decisions, arguing that they “send mixed messages about what is sexual harassment and the extent to which it should be treated seriously”. Moving forward, Ai Group has said that the definition of serious misconduct in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) should be amended to “expressly include sexual harassment”.
Chemist Warehouse employees have gone on an indefinite strike over what they’ve described as a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and exploitation. Over 800 employees across Victoria and Queensland stood in solidarity to join the industrial action. Among a host of accusations, workers claimed the pharmacy juggernaut created a “toxic culture” of sexual harassment, bullying and job insecurity. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary, Sally McManus, is one of many to come forward and condemn the retailer. In a public statement Ms McManus said that “the issue of sexual harassment in this place here is outrageous, and the fact that [Chemist Warehouse] refuses to take action against it says it all”. The National Union of Workers – which has been investigating Chemist Warehouse’s “unsafe work environment” for the past two years – have also come out to publicly criticise the company.
A report conducted by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) has found that female employees of the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (MSF) have been targets of gender discrimination, intimidation, bullying and harassment. The EOC survey found that of the 890 full-time MSF staff, only 17 were women. It followed that part of the problem with the MSF could be attributed to the “male-dominated hierarchical culture”. MSF Chief Executive, Michael Morgan, said he was ashamed by the findings and has since called for cultural change within the organisation.