Final Sexual Harassment Inquiry report

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“The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has come out with something that is clear, which is that sexual harassment is a workplace right, is a health and safety right, is a human right.” [??!!]

What would be more accurate and reflective of Michele O’Neil’s position is that workers have a human, health and safety, and workplace right to a workplace that is without the risk of sexual harassment.  The ACTU President gets the message right in the official media release.

O’Neill urges the Morrison Government to take the final report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and its recommendations seriously and it should, but the signs are not good.  The mainstream media coverage of the Workplace Sexual Harassment Inquiry’s report has been thin. 

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OHS approach to sexual harassment gets an airing

Tracey Spicer talking with Tom Ballard in December 2017

Tracey Spicer has been a very public face of the campaign against sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. She, and her campaign, has not been without controversy but recently Spicer presented a three-part documentary on the issue. In Episode 2, the viewers heard, all too briefly, from Dr Rebecca Michalak about the occupational health and safety (OHS) context of sexual harassment.

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Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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New inquiry into sexual harassment – an OHS opportunity and challenge

On June 20 2018, the Australian government announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, claiming it to be a world-first. Sexual harassment is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many ways BUT the psychological harm it can create is. The job of an OHS person is to encourage employers to reduce work-related harm through prevention, so we need to prevent sexual harassment, just as we do for all the work activities that contribute to poor psychological health and safety.

The macroeconomic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace may be of interest to politicians and business lobbyists but this can be a significant distraction from identifying ways to prevent psychological harm, which should be the most important legacy of this type of inquiry.

Addressing the OHS impacts of

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#MeToo, #TimesUp and #OHS

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Being International Women’s Day, the media is awash with articles about pay rates, gender equality and sexual harassment.  One of those articles is written by Sarah Ralph of Norton Rose Fullbright. Ralph provides a good summary of the current gender issues and recent media attention (may require registration but it’s free).  She makes several recommendations for how to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and unwanted media attention.  Below those recommendations are looked at from the occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective to see how OHS can help reduce the psychological harm. Continue reading “#MeToo, #TimesUp and #OHS”