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New Survey: The worst workplaces in Australia for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination


A new Australian survey has found workplaces in Queensland and Canberra are the worst in the country for sexual harassment and discrimination against women.

The survey conducted on behalf of leading law firm Shine Lawyers found almost 37% of Queensland women had been a victim of harassment or discrimination in the workforce. Women in Canberra had the highest rate of the capital cities with 36.4% of women in the national capital reporting they had faced discrimination and sexual harassment in the office.

Shine Lawyers Employment law expert Christie Toy says the most disturbing figures show the continued under-reporting of harassment and discrimination, with 70 percent of the women polled who were victims of such incidents never telling a senior member of staff.

“This indicates that women don’t trust the systems and policies currently in place or feel safe enough to report what is happening to them. It is also worrying to see so many people witnessing harassment and discrimination including unwanted sexual advances but not taking action,” says Ms Toy.

While the #metoo campaign is gaining global momentum Shine Lawyers believes it would also be timely to review the statute of limitations on reporting sexual harassment, which under current time frames is between 6 or 12 months from the last incident, depending on the jurisdiction.

“It can take a long time for someone to process what has happened to them and then find the courage to come forward. The #metoo movement has certainly empowered a lot of people to speak up but there are still so many barriers that prevent them from actually reporting the incidents. There shouldn’t be a time limit hanging over their head as well,” said Ms Toy.

Major findings from the Shine Lawyers survey include:

  • Over a third of women polled (35%) said they have been a victim of harassment/ discrimination in the workplace.
  • Almost half of the women polled (48%) who said they had been a victim of harassment/ discrimination said it took the form of sexual advances.
  • Over half of women polled (55%) said they had witnessed favouritism of male colleagues.
  • More than two-fifths of men and women (43%) said they had witnessed sexual advances being made in the office.
  • Of the women that said they didn’t report the incident to senior staff (70%), almost half (45%) gave the reason that they didn’t think their employer would do anything about it, a further 36% said it was because their senior colleagues were the perpetrators, others were worried about losing their job or said they were too embarrassed or feared they wouldn’t be believed.

State-based findings – three highest statistics:

  • More Queensland women (37%) said they had been a victim of sexual harassment and discrimination, while just over a third from the Northern Territory 36.4% and Victoria 36.1% reported they had been a victim.
  • More than half of Queensland women (52.7%) who said they’d been harassed were the victims of sexual advances, followed by Western Australia (51%) and NSW (50.8%)
  • People from the Northern Territory are most likely to witness sexual advances being made in the office: half of NT (50%) WA (48.9%) and South Australia (45.9%)

Capital City Findings – three highest statistics:

  • More than a third of women in Canberra (36.4%) Melbourne (36.3%) and Adelaide (36%) say they have been victims of harassment and discrimination.
  • Percentage of women polled who said they had been harassed and were the victims of sexual advances: Sydney was the worst with more than half of female residents saying they’d been the victim of sexual advances (53%) followed by Perth 51.2% and Brisbane 50.8%
  • The number of people saying they had witnesses sexual advances in a workplace was significantly higher in Canberra 64.3%, the next closest was Perth on 46.7% and 46.4% in Adelaide.

The research was conducted by Censuswide in Australia between 27th February 2018 and 1st March 2018, with 2,009 respondents aged 16+.

Graphics approved for media use showing national statistics and state figures can be found in this DropBox along with an executive summary of the findings.

Click or tap here for the Dropbox files

Released on March 8, 2018. Last modified: March 8, 2018