HRBC Forum Summary

September 2020: Workplace Sexual Harassment – Recent Developments

In our latest HR Breakfast Club webinar, guest speaker Kieran Pender from the International Bar Association (IBA) spoke about recent developments in the workplace sexual harassment context.

Kieran began by setting out the legal framework in Australia and outlined the evolution of employer liability for workplace harassment. He then highlighted several recent developments, notably several high profile cases (including those involving a former High Court judge, and major company AMP), and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s landmark 2020 report Respect@Work.

Kieran highlighted several of the report’s recommendations, which – if implemented – would have an impact on employers. These include the possibility of a positive legislative duty for employers to take steps to prevent sexual harassment, and a ‘stop sexual harassment’ scheme in the Fair Work Commission to mirror its anti-bullying jurisdiction.

He then discussed the IBA’s work to address sexual harassment in the legal profession, including the 2019 report Kieran authored, Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession.

Kieran concluded by offering some practical suggestions for workplaces to prevent and better respond to incidents of harassment and other inappropriate behaviour. These included:

  • An inclusive approach to inclusion – ensuring all members of staff are actively involved in these cultural change initiatives;
  • Undertaking internal, anonymous workplace culture surveys to understand the prevalence of harassment, mental health challenges, barriers to diversity and inclusion etc;
  • Flexible reporting models to encourage and empower targets of misconduct to speak up;
  • The use of Trust Tech to facilitate flexible reporting (with solutions including Vault Platform, Whispli and Elker);
  • Engaging constructively with the #MeToo backlash; and
  • Maintaining momentum to ensure these issues are addressed, today, tomorrow and into the future.

The presentation has been recorded and the video is now available to watch. To register for future HR Breakfast Club forums, visit our monthly forum page and register to attend.

Contact our Employment Law & Investigations Team for more information.

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