The figures released today by the Australian Human Rights Commission that show sexual harassment continues to be a major problem in workplaces should be a concern for us all.

Everyone’s Business, the 4th national survey into sexual harassment in the workplace, found one in three workers in Australia said that they had been sexually harassed at work over the last five years, compared with one in five from the 2012 survey and one in ten in 2003.

This equates to 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The results revealed that formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment continues to be low, with only 17 per cent of people making a formal report or complaint.

For almost four decades, the Commission has handled complaints about sexual harassment in Victoria’s workplaces.

We know that it is pervasive, widely tolerated and drastically under-reported in our state and beyond.

Despite the global conversation on the topic and the momentum of the #MeToo movement, people don't report because they don't think they will be believed or they worry that it could damage their career.

We also know that it can take a serious emotional, physical and economic toll.

So we want to be clear about the seriousness of the change needed.

This is the moment to think big. Victoria’s employers must reshape our workplaces to prioritise the prevention of sexual harassment and to respond properly to it when it becomes known, and they must start right away.

We need to work to change underlying social norms and inequalities that lead to sexual harassment and to change workplace cultures that do little to address sexual harassment. We have moral and legal obligations to ensure that all people work in an environment that is respectful and safe.

We can help

In Victoria, the Commission provides an alternative for people who don’t want to report sexual harassment to their workplace directly or take court action.

We have a free dispute resolution service, which provides an opportunity for people to explore ways of resolving the dispute by mutual agreement. It gives someone who has been sexually harassed a chance to explain what happened, the damage caused to them and hurt experienced.

If you think you’ve been sexually harassed, you can call our Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153 to speak with a staff member. They can give you information about the law and explain how you can make a complaint to the Commission. Find out more about sexual harassment and dispute resolution at the Commission

We also provide education and resources for employers about their responsibilities under the law. Contact our Education and Consulting Services on (03) 9032 3467.

Media contact

Mobile: 0417 449 420

by Kristen Hilton, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner

Each year on International Women's Day, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission expresses our profound concern about sexual harassment in Victoria's workplaces. This year, at least, the issue needs no introduction. Day after day, sexual misconduct scandals have consumed our front pages. This is progress. But I'm here to press for more.

Monday, 26 February 2018 11:30

Sexual harassment at work hasn't gone away

Twenty-two years ago the Commission published a series of award-winning posters about sexual harassment, created by advertising agency McCann-Erikson.

Friday, 16 February 2018 16:07

Victorian Commissioner on Q&A MeToo Special

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton appeared as an audience VIP for Q&A’s MeToo Special on Thursday 15 February.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 15:58

Sexual harassment complaints on the rise

The Commission has seen an increase in enquiries and complaints regarding sexual harassment, particularly from young women. This may well be a result of continued media attention on the issue prompting women to speak up and contact us.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission today welcomed the Supreme Court ruling that will allow the release of the Independent Equity and Diversity Review of Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).

With the festive season upon us, employers are encouraged to remind staff that Christmas parties are work functions and sexual harassment is against the law and not acceptable. 

The Commission has provided a submission to the Department of Justice and Regulation’s consultation on the Victoria Police Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme.

While the headline 'Sex cases soar' may not seem like for good news for Victoria Police, the rise in complaints is an indication that more women members are speaking up about their mistreatment and that is absolutely a step in the right direction. 

With the festive season approaching, employers are encouraged to remind employees that the office Christmas or end-of-year party is a work function and sexual harassment is not acceptable.

The Commission sends Maryanne Diamond AO, Accessibility Activist, warm congratulations on being a state finalist for Australian of the Year 2017.

The first week of 2016 is yet to draw to a close but we have already seen a spate of inappropriate workplace behaviours which have sex discrimination at their core.

So let's get it out of the way right at the start: the fun police are ruining the country. You can't make a joke about anything any more. The do-gooders need to get over themselves and have a laugh. And here's my favourite: it was just a harmless joke.

In an effort to curb sexual harassment, US retailer American Apparel is attempting to ban workplace relationship and recently fired founder and CEO, Dov Charney, for alleged misconduct. While it's imperative to take workplace sexual harassment seriously, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins says that having a policy actually banning workplace romances would be culturally unacceptable in Australia.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Football Federation Victoria have thrown their support behind this year's Pride Football Australia tournament to show there is no place for homophobia in football.

International Women's Day is a day for celebration and a call to action for both men and women. Because equality is not just a "women's issue" – things that are good for women also benefit the whole community.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has today launched a new guideline on sexual harassment in the workplace and has called on employers to ensure they comply with their legal obligations to stamp it out.

The biggest survey into women who work in the law undertaken in recent years shows that women are exiting the legal profession because of systemic discrimination, sexual harassment and cultural and structural factors.

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