On 20 June 2018 Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, announced a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. The Australian Human Rights Commission is funding the inquiry and aims to hear from as many people as they can in all Australian capital cities and a number of regional cities in the later part of 2018. This National Inquiry is an Australian, and a world first in responding to the issue of workplace sexual harassment.

What caused this inquiry?

The rise in media attention for sexual harassment in the workplace has brought the issue of sexual harassment to the attention of all businesses, both in Australia and around the world. As a result, more women and men are coming forward to publicly tell their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. This has painted a clear picture of the devastating impact sexual harassment can have on individuals’ lives, as well as the significant costs to business and the community.

Kate Jenkins stated,

This spotlight on sexual harassment has turned the tide and created a clear and unprecedented appetite for change.

What will this inquiry be considering?

As outlined in the Australian Human Rights Commission website, the 12-month inquiry will consider the economic impact of sexual harassment, the drivers of these behaviours and the adequacy of the existing legal framework. The Commission will speak with individuals and organisations from all over Australia about their experiences. It will also identify examples of existing good practice, and make recommendations for change, providing a way forward for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

What are some of the impacts of this inquiry for Australian business?

Kate Jenkins has mentioned that “It’s time to work together to create a society which is safe and respectful, and where sexual harassment at work is no longer something people simply have to put up with”.

I’d suggest that in the same way that safety became the only not negotiable in business in the 1980’s, we are about to see a dramatic change when it comes to ensuring appropriate behavior is carried out at schools, in community clubs and in the workplace. This will extend beyond sexual harassment into other conduct related matters such as anti-bullying, equal employment opportunity, inclusion and diversity.

How can you prepare for change?

At Sentrient we are noticing a significant rise in requests for education for topics such as workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination. Proactive boards and those executives responsible for governance, risk and compliance are recognizing the benefits of online workplace compliance systems such as the one provided by Sentrient to provide a simple, easy and reliable way to take ‘all reasonable steps’ when it comes to education and policy roll out. Of course, this is just a starting point as we all invest in making Australian workplaces safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces.

About Sentrient

Sentrient is Australia’s most reliable online workplace compliance system for small and medium business and larger organisations. Unlike legacy compliance regimes, Sentrient is affordable and can be deployed in just minutes, without setup costs or any of the stress associated with complex system configurations. It comes pre-loaded with legally endorsed online compliance courses, a workplace policy builder and ready-made reports for audit purposes. This makes it easy for you to do the right thing and protect your business from the ever-increasing cost associated with breaches in safety, invasion of privacy, workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination.