Sexual harassment must stop

4 March, 2021

Prevalence of sexual harassment remains high as members continue to report abuse and harassment suffered at work.

IEU Organiser and Equity Committee member Caryl Rosser said the sobering statics were a stark reminder of work that still needs to be done within the workplace and the community to address and stop such harassment and other forms of gendered violence.

“Addressing the issue will also require action by governments at all levels – yet sadly the federal government is failing Australian women with its inadequate response to the allegations of sexual assault in Parliament House.

“At the same time, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called on the federal government to act on the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s report released a year ago,” Caryl said.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner handed the national report on sexual harassment in workplaces with 55 recommendations, but the report has so far been ignored by federal government.

Statistic reveal extent of insidious issue

An ACTU survey for that report found more than half the respondents (54.8%) had experienced sexual harassment at their most recent workplace.

Only 17% of those had made a formal complaint.

The Australian Human Rights Commission report recommendations include:

  • Stronger work health and safety laws to make sure that employers are obliged to tackle the underlying causes of sexual harassment at work;
  • Better access to justice for workers through a quick, easy new complaint process in our workplace laws;
  • Stronger powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to investigate industries which are rife with sexual harassment, and positive duties on employers.

Current laws failing Australian women

ACTU President Michele O’Neil  said women should not have to rely on their boss having a daughter in order to be safe at work.

“Sexual harassment at work is rife across Australia and our current laws are failing to keep workers safe.

“The federal government were given 55 recommendations for protecting workers against sexual harassment in all workplaces 12 months ago and instead they chose to sit on their hands and do nothing.

“They have failed to act on any of the recommendations of their own report.

“With more than half of the people we surveyed experiencing sexual harassment at work we have to look at this as a systematic issue in our country – one that requires urgent reforms,” Michelle said.

Support and resources for IEU members

Our union is here to support any member suffering sexual harassment and/or another form of gendered violence at work.

Members who need urgent assistance should contact one of our experienced Industrial Officers as soon as possible.

To deal with the issue as a collective, our union also holds regular gendered violence training sessions.

Caryl said the training provides a comprehensive overview of gendered violence, its drivers and risk factors, as well as a framework for preventing and addressing incidents in the workplace.

“Gendered violence training is an essential resource for employees who are collectively committed to respect and inclusion at work,” Caryl said.

The next online gendered violence training session will take place on Tuesday, 11 May – email to register your interest in attending.

Click here for more information from the ACTU on what to do if you are sexually harassed at work.

National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732. Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and

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