Preventing workplace sexual harassment
More Australian women are coming forward with historical complaints of workplace sexual harassment during the pandemic, according to senior lecturer in law Dr Elizabeth Shi.
“This is potentially because more women are working from home during COVID-19 and do not have to work side by side with the perpetrators, which has emboldened them to make formal complaints,” she says.
In a 2018 national survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, 43% of survey respondents reported they suffered negative consequences after making a complaint about sexual harassment.
“The negative consequences women suffer after complaining must be acknowledged and addressed if we are serious about eliminating workplace sexual harassment,” she says.
“It is time for law-makers, employers, human resources professionals and trade unions to take the lead and make real changes to end workplace sexual harassment.”
“Women are at the frontline of workers disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and exposed to violence during the pandemic, warns researcher Lisa Heap.
Many work in the lowest paid jobs “and are more likely to have lost employment and to fail to qualify for supports like Job Keeper,” she adds.
At the same time, “enforced working from home has exposed women to more instances of domestic and family violence, presenting a new set of challenges for employers to respond.
“Employers have obligations to manage the work-related aspects of domestic and family violence, but the pandemic has challenged the capacity of employers to respond effectively regarding this obligation where women are working at home.
Recovery plans and stimulus packages must consider the gendered impact of COVID-19, while industries worst hit, where women are the majority, should be prioritised for resources.
“The federal government should immediately commit to ratifying the ILO’s recently adopted Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The Convention will give workers and employers the tools to combat violence and harassment at work," Heap says.
Story: Diana Robertson