Following the March4Justice actions last month, and the failure of the Federal Government to properly respond to the Repect@Work report last week, a diverse group of organisations representing women’s rights have launched a 4 point demand that will deliver real safety at work for women.
The Safe Work 4 Women statement outlines key changes to legislation aimed at eliminating sexual violence and harassment at work. In its response to Respect@Work, the Federal Government has failed to provide proper protections for women at work, with no new rights for people experiencing sexual violence and harassment and no further responsibility on employers to ensure a safe workplace and prevent sexual violence and harassment.
The group identifies the upcoming meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Work health and safety Ministers in May as a test of whether the Government will vote to support change so employers are obliged to prevent sexual harassment.
The Federal Government’s response to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s “Respect@Work” report fails to commit to a number of key recommendations that are necessary for women’s rights to a safe workplace. In particular, we are concerned about the government’s failure to commit to meaningful change in these four areas:
1. Stronger work health and safety laws to make sure that employers are obliged to tackle the underlying causes of sexual harassment at work.
2. Better access to justice for workers in our workplace laws by prohibiting sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act and providing a quick, easy, new complaints process, and providing 10 days paid family and domestic leave as a national minimum employment standard.
3. Stronger powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to make her own decisions to investigate industries and workplaces which are rife with sexual harassment, and positive duties on employers to take steps to eliminate sexual harassment.
4. Ratification of the 2019 ILO Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment at work.
The statement is supported by the ACTU, The Parenthood, the Shift to Gender Equality, 50/50 by 2030, Gen Vic, Per Capita and Professor Sara Charlesworth from RMIT University.
"Sexual harassment and assault in workplaces is a systemic and prolific problem that requires systemic solutions to eliminate, as the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner's Respect@Work report so thoroughly illustrates, says Georgie Dent, The Parenthood's Executive Director.
“For too long individual women have borne the burden of managing sexual harassment and assault in their places of work. It is too often that victims of harassment and assault lose their jobs and their income and their standing - rather than perpetrators. It is absolutely critical and overdue that employers assume active responsibility not just for managing sexual harassment after it occurs but eliminating it. Providing a complaints mechanism is not good enough.
"The Federal government's commitment to making all workplaces safer for women will be judged on whether it commits to four substantive changes in the Respect@Work report that will strengthen health and safety laws and lead to meaningful reform.
"The Parenthood advocates for positive policy changes for parents and families. All parents deserve access to safe workplaces but as it stands too many women - mothers included - are being denied this basic right and they are coming together to say enough is enough."