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ACTU sexual harassment survey results

A survey on sexual harassment in the workplace was conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) earlier this year, with 9600 respondents from across all major sectors of the economy. The majority (68%) of respondents were women.

More than half of all respondents (54.8%) reported experiencing sexual harassment at their most recent workplace or at a previous workplace, and almost two thirds (64%) reported having witnessed sexual harassment at their most recent or previous workplace. Nearly two thirds of women who responded to the survey said they had experienced sexual harassment at a current or former workplace, and more than a third of men reported the same.

Survey findings

Crude or offensive behaviour was the most common form of harassment, experienced by 69% of respondents, with 48% experiencing unwanted sexual attention, 35% inappropriate touching. 18% of respondents received unwanted explicit texts, emails or messages on social media. A little under one in ten respondents (8%) reported experiencing sexual coercion in the workplace.

As little as just over a quarter of those who experienced sexual harassment (27%) ever made a formal complaint, and more than 40% told no one at all. A fear of negative consequences (55%) and a lack of faith in the complaint process (50%) were the two most common reasons given by the respondents.

Of those that did make a complaint, more than a quarter reported less favourable treatment by their employer, including being forced to leave or resign, being bullied or having their hours or shifts reduced. Most people who complained (56%) were not at all satisfied with the outcome, 43% felt their complaint was ignored or not taken seriously, and 45% reported seeing their harasser facing no consequences.

Change needed

Across the nearly 10,000 people surveyed there was support for a range of stronger rules to protect against sexual harassment in the workplace; better protection from victimisation (60%), a quicker complaints process (34%), more information and support for those experiencing sexual harassment (54%), a stronger role for the union (33%) and better remedies for complaints (47%).

ACTU President Michele O’Neil said of the findings: “Everyone should go to work free from the fear of harassment and unwanted sexual attention. For many people - mainly women - today in Australia this is not the reality. Our workplace laws have failed women who are experiencing harassment at work.

“We need to change the rules. Sexual harassment is a workplace issue and people who experience it should be able to take it up through the workplace umpire.”

Read the full survey findings here