Almost 75 per cent of women who are sexually harassed at work report being unhappy with the outcomes of complaints made to their employers, according to new research from Shine Lawyers.
The national law firm commissioned a poll through ReachTEL, conducted on the nights of 16–17 August 2018 of almost 3,700 Australian women over the age of 18, and found that females are not satisfied with the responses to complaints made about harassment, in the uncommon event that complaints are even made.
Almost 19 per cent of women reported having been sexually harassed at work, but only 20.7 per cent have made complaints, and of those one in five, more than one in three said their complaints were ignored and no action was taken.
“It is very worrying to see so many women, who have been brave enough to come forward and report harassment to their employer, unhappy with the outcome. We can’t allow this to continue in Australian workplaces,” said Shine national general manager and special counsel Will Barsby.
“There needs to be a proactive campaign by employers to ensure there is proper education of their staff about what is appropriate in the workplace. Creating policies and procedures that are enforced will build a culture of safety and security for female workers. Prevention is key.”
Other findings from the survey included: just under 25 per cent of women aged between 18–34 reported being sexually harassed, 13.6 per cent didn’t report the harassment for fear of not being believed, 8.6 per cent of women would rather leave their job than make a complaint, and 18.2 per cent decided to resign with no job to go to after making their complaint.
More than 40 per cent said their harassment was committed by a boss or supervisor, highlighting power imbalances, according to Shine, and the top two reasons why women didn’t make complaints were that they didn’t feel the incidents were bad enough to complain (26.2 per cent) and they were worried about job security (24.7 per cent).
Elsewhere, 25.6 per cent of victims were over the age of 51, making them more vulnerable to sexual harassment than younger women.
“Older workers are more likely to have financial pressures that mean keeping their jobs becomes more important than a safe workplace,” Mr Barsby explained.
“They might have mortgages, children in school or be a carer to a loved one like an ageing parent. These things can make a secure wage a priority despite the personal risks.”
“When four in 10 women between the age of 35–50 and one in three of all women surveyed report that their complaints have been ignored, Australia has a major problem,” added NOW Australia chair Liza-Jayne Loch.
“Every single Australian deserves the right to a safe workplace, free from harassment.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.