What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 16 – 22 August

Female FIFO Workers Sexually Assaulted, Harassed

The Australian Workers Union and the Mining and Energy Union have released the results of a survey of 425 fly-in fly-out workers, including 125 women, as part of their submission to a state parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment in the mining industry. The report revealed one in five women in Western Australia’s mining industry have been sexually assaulted or offered better conditions in exchange for sexual favours. Additionally, almost half of the surveyed female FIFO workers said they did not believe the reporting of sexual harassment was encouraged by managers, and they feared being black listed as troublemakers if they came forward. The women said the instances of sexual harassment were perpetrated by co-workers, managers and supervisors, who pressured female workers into sexual activity in exchange for access to training and job opportunities. The union said mining employers should provide more security measures at FIFO worksites including panic buttons, self-closing doors, electronic locking, duress alarms and swipe card locks.

Simone McGurk Calls for Tougher Workplace Sexual Abuse Laws

WA Community Services Minister Simone McGurk has called for “mild forms of inappropriate conduct” to be included in the threshold set out in the Sex Discrimination Act. A Senate Committee is currently considering amendments to the Act. Ms McGurk, in the WA Government submission, requested changes beyond the current threshold, which captures only “seriously demeaning conduct.” Ms McGurk said “the threshold may create a burden of proof that acts further to disadvantage victims of sex-based harassment.” This is in-line with submissions by the NT Government and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

BHP Sacked 48 Workers Over Sexual Harassment Claims

A submission by BHP to a parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO workforce has revealed the company has sacked 48 employees in the past two years over sexual harassment complaints. The submission showed that five employees had alleged they had been raped and 13 indecently assaulted between July 2019 and June 2021. The serious complaints were among 73 recorded incidents of sexual harassment made to the company’s confidential reporting arm, EthicsPoints. This included inappropriate sexual comments, unwelcome comments about looks or dress, inappropriate jokes, wolf whistles, unwelcome touching, requests for massage, inappropriate text messages and images, staring or leering or persistent requests for personal information or dates and other unwanted advances. Approximately 34% of the reported cases involved unwelcome comments or jokes of a sexual nature while the sending and displaying of inappropriate messages or images comprised 30% of the complaints. Of the 73 reports, 48 results in termination or otherwise permanent removal of the respondent from the company and its worksites.

Australia Gender Pay Gap Worsens in 2021

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has estimated a new gender pay gap at 14.2%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points over the past six months. The gap was previously 13.4%. Women working full time earn $261.50 a week less than their male counterparts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics records women’s average weekly full-time earnings as $1575.50 and men’s at $1837. The calculation looks at women’s collective position in the paid workforce rather than like-for-like roles. The increased gap was driven by a rapid rise in men’s pay at 1.8% compared with 0.9% for women. Women were hardest hit at the height of the pandemic, with analysts encouraging the federal government to focus on funding female-dominated industries such as childcare rather than solely traditional recovery projects such as infrastructure and construction. The WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge has set Equal Pay Day for August 31, representing the need for women to work an extra 61 days after the end of the financial year to keep up with men’s pay.