The Australian Government has announced its commitment to preventing sexual harassment at work and creating reforms that are aimed at creating a safer workplace.
The government will form a taskforce dedicated to delivering regulatory reform and simplify the legal framework.
This will come on top of education and training programs across sectors and stronger research on prevention strategies.
The move follows a national inquiry into sexual harassment at work that was commissioned in 2018, with 55 recommendations proposed and agreed to, if not noted, by the federal government.
Among these recommendations are the proposal for stronger penalties; new dismissal laws; extended lifespan of sexual harassment complaints; and amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act and Fair Work Act.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said sexual harassment was not only immoral and despicable and even criminal, but it also denied Australians their personal and economic security by not being safe at work.
“According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in recent times,” he said.
“This is a culture that we all have to change for the better across our society, by changing our behaviour.”
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne said respect had to be a national commitment, with governments, workplaces, communities and individuals owning the problem of sexual harassment and the solutions.
“Ending sexual harassment is everyone’s business,” Payne said.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable agreed that sexual harassment would not be tolerated in the workplace.
The industry body plans to work with the government to bring the reforms to the minerals industry.
“Earlier this year, the MCA announced the expansion of the scope of the minerals industry’s safety and health policy and released a strong and direct statement on the importance of eliminating sexual harassment in Australian mining workplaces,” Constable said.
“The Safe, Healthy and Respectful Workplaces policy is focussed on building and sustaining respectful workplaces, and combined with the industry’s commitment to eliminating sexual harassment will ensure Australian mining companies can work together to end unacceptable and illegal behaviour.”
According to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s 2021 Women in Mining survey, 47 per cent of respondents believed that disrespectful behaviour was quickly addressed in the workplace.
The response was, however, more skewed toward women in managerial and executive roles rather than fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) employees.