The ability to work in a safe environment, free from sexual assault or harassment, is a basic human right.
In recent months, many women and men have come forward publicly to tell their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace, shining a light on this issue both in Australia, and around the world. These personal accounts have made clear the devastating impact sexual harassment can have on individuals’ lives, as well as the significant costs to business and the community.
This spotlight on sexual harassment has turned the tide and created a clear and unprecedented appetite for change. Therefore, in June 2018 I announced a National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces (National Inquiry).
The National Inquiry will examine these systemic issues, and will therefore not be investigating or making findings about individual allegations of sexual harassment as part of the National Inquiry.
The Terms of Reference for the National Inquiry require the Commission to review and report on:
- a national survey of the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, by sector
- online workplace-related sexual and sex-based harassment and the use of technology and social media to perpetrate workplace-related sexual and sex-based harassment
- the use of technology and social media to identify both alleged victims and perpetrators of workplace-related sexual harassment
- the drivers of workplace sexual harassment, including whether:
» some individuals are more likely to experience sexual harassment due to particular characteristics including gender, age, sexual orientation, culturally or linguistically diverse background, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status or disability
» some workplace characteristics and practices are more likely to increase the risk of sexual harassment
- the current legal framework with respect to sexual harassment
- existing measures and good practice being undertaken by employers in preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment, both domestically and internationally
- the impacts on individuals and business of sexual harassment, such as mental health, and the economic impacts such as workers compensation claims, employee turnover and absenteeism, and
- recommendations to address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.
In conducting the National Inquiry the Commission will have regard to the economic impact of sexual harassment in the workplace, drawing on economic modelling.
Additionally, three years after the release of the National Inquiry report (the Report), the Commission will:
- conduct an assessment of any changes in the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces since the National Inquiry, and
- make any further recommendations necessary to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Commission’s purpose is to provide independent and impartial services to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and address discrimination and breaches of human rights. The Commission engages at the policy level – encouraging government, industry and community groups alike to see fundamental rights and freedoms realised. This includes increasing gender equality and addressing workplace sexual harassment.