What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 26 November – 2 December 2018

Survey Reveals Many Employees Don’t Feel Safe Reporting Misconduct
According to a recent survey, employees are not reporting misconduct for fear it could risk them their jobs. The Ethics at Work Survey found that while 24% of the 752 respondents had been aware of misconduct in the past year, 35% did not say anything and 32% believed that it would jeopardise their jobs. Moreover, 27% considered that even if they had spoken up, no action would have been taken. Of the reported misconduct, bullying and harassment was the most prevalent form at 41%. John Neil, the Co-Head of Advice and Education at The Ethics Centre, said that the results “reveal that many Australians don’t trust that the current systems for speaking up against unethical behaviour are there to support them”.

Significant Allegations of Culture of Bullying at Melbourne’s Lost Dogs Home
There are growing concerns about the Melbourne Lost Dogs’ Home, specifically among donors regarding its mismanagement. In the past few years, there have been nine chief executive officers alongside board resignations and the departure of their management team. Former staff members describe the workplace as “toxic” and allege a culture of bullying and harassment was rife. One former anonymous chief executive said that there was a “systemic bullying culture [that] never appears to have changed”. Indeed, in 2016, the chief financial officer and another senior employee brought their bullying complaints to the Fair Work Commission before themselves leaving.

CEO of Local Council Refuses to Provide Recommendations of Workplace Investigation
The chief executive officer of Wollondilly Council is refusing to disclose the results of a workplace investigation. Luke Johnson initially ordered the investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment in the wake of the suicide of council staff member, David ‘Harry’ Wilson. However, Mr Johnson is now withholding its contents, ostensibly for such reasons as prejudice to the conduct or effectiveness of the investigation and prejudice to the council. However, a majority of council members stated that they would take industrial action if the recommendations were not publicised. They voted in favour of demanding that Mr Johnson provide a copy of the report to the United Services Union.

Justice Maxwell Recommends Greater Sanctions for Workplace Sexual Harassment
A senior member of the judiciary has spoken out about workplace harassment. Justice Maxwell has called for greater sanctions for sexual harassment and emphasised that the workplace culture needed to change so that complainants could be confident their issues would be dealt with appropriately. This is in contrast to the way in which allegations against Geoffrey Rush and NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley were publicised without complainants’ permission, which the judge described as “quite wrong”. Justice Maxwell, a Male Champion of Change, has organised discussion groups for barristers, and intends to do the same for solicitors. He hopes to encourage men to take a more active approach to reducing discrimination and also promote females in the industry.

City of Sydney Championing the Rights of Women in Relation to Superannuation and Pay Equity
The City of Sydney will pay staff on parental leave superannuation for up to 52 weeks. The new policy, an increase from the former 18 weeks, was unveiled in the City’s Lord Mayoral Minute and endorsed by the Council. Lord Mayor Moore said that it was “unfair that women are penalised by lower superannuation benefits when they retire because they take time out to look after children”. Although not obliged under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 – as non-public sector organisations with over 100 employees are – the City of Sydney began publicly reporting its gender pay equity in 2015-16. In a comparison of equivalent roles, the City boasts a pay gap of 1.7% in favour of men, which is considerably lower than the national average of 14.6%.

AHRC Releases Fourth National Survey on Sexual Harassment
The Australian Human Rights Commission has provided some advice to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. With the release of its fourth national survey, ‘Everyone’s business – national workplace sexual harassment inquiry’, the rate of sexual harassment was found to have increased from the previous reporting period. Of the 10,000 respondents, 85% of women and 57% of men said they had been harassed. The Commission recommended that employers ensure they have a clearly defined policy on sexual harassment, which explains the behaviour and means of reporting it, as well as undertake regular training.