Date: 
Wednesday 12 September 2018

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has released new figures today that show sexual harassment continues to be a major problem in Australian workplaces.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, Commissioner Jenkins outlined the pervasive nature of sexual harassment.

“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 our 2012 survey and one in ten in 2003.

“What is clear is that this conduct begins the moment people enter the workplace, and that harassers prey on those less powerful than them.

“Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 were the most likely to be sexually harassed at work,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

The Commission’s survey of 10,000 people was undertaken by Roy Morgan Research.

It showed that sexual harassment continues to affect both men and women.

“We found that 39% of Australian women and 26% of Australian men told us they have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years, both a significant increase on 2012,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

At the same time, four out of every five harassers in the workplace were men.

For the first time, the survey results provide industry specific data. 

For example, four out of five people working in information, media and telecommunications reported being sexually harassed.

Commissioner Jenkins said the results revealed that formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment continues to be low, with only 17% of people making a report or complaint. 

“We know from our research that many people are afraid to report their experiences of unwelcome sexual conduct out of fear that they won’t be believed, that it’s not worth it, that they’ll be ostracised and that it could damage their career.

“It’s also worrying that almost half of those who did make a formal report said that nothing changed at their organisation, as a result of the complaint.

“Unwelcome sexual conduct on this scale in the workplace not only causes distress to workers and colleagues, it impacts workplace productivity and impedes career progression, which has an economic impact on businesses and families,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

The survey results will inform the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which will begin public consultations later this month.

READ: Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces