What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 19 Feb 2024 – 25 Feb 2024

Family and domestic violence at work

Safe Work Australia has updated the Family and domestic violence at work information sheet to reflect changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 around entitlements to paid family and domestic violence leave.

Managing the risk of family and domestic violence at the workplace is complex and needs to be handled appropriately and sensitively. It becomes a WHS risk if the perpetrator makes threats, intimidates, or carries out violence on a partner or family member at their workplace, including if they are working from home.

This information sheet provides guidance on how persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) can help provide a safe environment for workers and where to seek further advice.

Check out the information sheet – Family and domestic violence at work and see the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website for information on changes to the Fair Work Act.

Sexual Harassment and sexism is on the rise for women in Australian Academia

Professor Leonie Rowan of Griffith University led an interdisciplinary research team and says the data has unearthed the widespread experience of everyday sexism in Australian universities – and why there is such a stubborn tendency to ignore it.

“We routinely dismiss and normalise the way sexism limits women’s careers, shuts down opportunities, and leads to serious problems in mental and physical health,” says Professor Rowan, whose research and teaching build on more than two decades of experience in education settings.

The recently published findings were the results of a survey of 420 Australian academics, women and non-binary people, with ninety per cent reporting being subject to workplace sexism.

The research follows recent findings from a national survey of sexual harassment against university staff undertaken by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). That data revealed 29 per cent had experienced sexual harassment. Five years ago, the figure was 19 per cent.

Professor Rowan says the data discovered was “depressing, and frightening”.

“Not only had 50 per cent of our respondents directly experienced sexual harassment in Australian universities – with the majority of harassers in these experiences being senior co-workers – the figures on everyday forms of sexism were also stark,” she says.

“56 per cent of respondents report being reprimanded and spoken rudely to by a male colleague. 92 per cent feel ignored. 89 per cent were interrupted or talked over in meetings.”

“What Women Want” Survey

Flexible working, combating sexual harassment, pay transparency and menopause leave have emerged as top workplace priorities for women, according to a recent survey conducted by Australian jobs network, WORK180.

The survey, which polled 769 participants, predominantly women aged between 26 and 46, sought to discern what it will take for businesses to retain their female employees in coming years.

The “What Women Want” survey highlighted that flexible working is the most in-demand employer offering, with 75% of respondents valuing it over a top-of-market salary. Policies dedicated to preventing sexual harassment and promoting pay transparency followed closely behind. Particularly, members of Generation Z (born 1997-2012), who are estimated to make up a quarter of the workforce by 2025, showed strong backing for such measures.

Dr training survey revealed bullying, harassment and discrimination prevalent

Health systems need to adopt a workplace culture centred on human wellbeing to build a healthy workplace culture that is fit for the modern era. Psychosocial hazard policies could be effective levers to drive this change.

For too long, doctors and other health care professionals across Australia have endured poor organisational culture and leadership when it comes to tackling bullying, harassment, other negative workplace interactions, and system performance.

These psychosocial hazards must be defined and addressed by health leaders to prevent any more psychological harm to staff and to encourage more of our colleagues to stay on the frontline of health care.

The most recent 2023 Medical Training Survey showed bullying, harassment, discrimination or racism was experienced or witnessed by 35% of all trainees and 54% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees, most commonly by more senior clinicians. 

Policies related to psychosocial hazards and the concept itself were developed to protect the wellbeing of the workforce, and these kinds of policies are vital for quality improvement purposes within a health care context.

Gender pay gaps for 5,000 Australian private sector employers to be published

On 27 February 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) is publishing the gender pay gaps for almost 5,000 Australian private sector employers. The Hon. Mary Wooldridge, Chief Executive Officer of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WEGA), will address the National Press Club of Australia on “Accelerating gender equality in Australian workplaces”. Watch this space for the who’s who in gender pay gap!

Australia ranked 26 in the world for gender equality

Having one in four employers now providing gender neutral parental leave is welcome news to Dr Anna Cody, Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Recognising the importance of caring responsibilities being shared in families and making a provision for men to take up caring roles is a significant advancement in terms of equality, she says.

“We need to make sure the parenting role is shared more equally, because that’s really been one of the drivers of gender and economic inequality, as well as the lack of valuing of work that’s traditionally done by women,” says Dr Cody of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“We’re not close to gender equality yet – but it’s definitely improved in the last year. A year ago, we were ranked in the 40s in the world according to the World Economic Forum, but now we’re 26 in the world.”

Important safety improvements for maritime and offshore workers in the oil and gas sector

Australian offshore workers have the least health and safety rights and protections of any group of workers anywhere in the country.

The Maritime Union of Australia has welcomed new legislation introduced to Parliament this week by Resources Minister Madeleine King that will deliver important safety improvements for maritime and offshore workers in the oil and gas sector.

The offshore oil and gas sector is one of the highest-risk industries anywhere in Australia. Workers perform dangerous tasks in remote and isolated areas amongst significant physical and psychological hazards. Despite these realities, Australian offshore workers have the least health and safety rights and protections of any group of workers anywhere in the country.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 makes significant progress towards closing that gap and providing stronger protections.

It will:

Strengthen the role and training of Health and Safety Representatives; 

Allow Health and Safety Representatives to request a review of safety management documents; 

Improve worker protection against discrimination and coercion; 

Strengthen the mental health protections for offshore oil and gas workers; 

Improve health and safety rules for diving operations and dive vessels; and 

Strengthen and simplify reporting requirements for serious injury notifications. 

Building better workplace cultural awareness

A new online tool has launched to help small and medium businesses build workplace cultural awareness. The First Nations Cultural Capability Resource also includes practical information to attract and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers.

The cultural tool is part of the $8.3 million Paving the Way – the First Nations Training Strategy and the Good people. Good jobs: Queensland Workforce Strategy 2022-2032

The Miles Government has launched a new online Cultural Capability tool with practical advice for businesses on cultural awareness and training for building a supportive environment for First Nations workers and operators.

The online tool helps to increase businesses’ awareness of the needs of First Nations staff and developing positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and customers.

The First Nations Cultural Capability Resource is at: business.qld.gov.au/cultural-capability-resource

Employment and Small Business and Training and Skills Minister Lance McCallum said: “The Cultural Capability tool, backed by the Miles Government, is designed to simplify workplace cultural awareness, skills training and recruitment with an easy-to-follow checklist. More Queenslanders are in jobs than ever before and we know when employers are supported to build culturally diverse, innovative and inclusive workplaces, businesses thrive”.