Australia to conduct world first inquiry into workplace sexual harassment

20 June 2018

Australia to conduct world first inquiry into workplace sexual harassment

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reached a new world first with its plan to launch an independent national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.

The investigation, which will last for 12 months, will be conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

“The timing was right, the appetite for change is there, and we have all the functions to make sure we can help Australia lead the globe on finding new solutions for sexual harassment,” Ms Jenkins said.

Ms Jenkins said that the ultimate goal was about turning the discussion about harassment in the workplace into real action, which will help make workplaces safer.

“The ultimate aim is we will have much better guidance on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the current climate,” she said.

The independent inquiry will hold public consultations in major cities and regional centres, where all Australians will have the opportunity to lodge submissions.

Not only will the investigation give Australians a voice on their experiences, but the inquiry will further examine the drivers of sexual harassment in the workplace and the use of technology, as well as the adequacy of current laws and policies.

“We will look at the effectiveness of the laws, but even more importantly what is going on in workplaces,” Ms Jenkins said.

There is also going to be a focus on the financial repercussions experienced by victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Ms Jenkins will hand down a series of recommendations in 12 months’ time, and any suggested changes will be reviewed after three years.

“Success for me will be at the end, that we come up with a new blueprint that will most certainly include many of the initiatives that are already in place, but better guidance for employers on how they can help improve the workplace,” she said.

The investigation comes as the number of complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace rises each year. The inquiry, a world first, is expected to be watched closely around the world.