By Law Squared
At Law Squared, we are passionate about helping our clients ensure that they never end up on the front page of the news for the wrong reasons. As a firm of entrepreneurs and lawyers, we help our clients grow fast, and because we work within a network of like-minded businesses who share our ethos and values, we know that you’ll get it when we say sexual harassment has no place in your business.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature where it is reasonable the person receiving the conduct would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Not only will sexual harassment harm the very people you’ve hired to help you build your empire, it will also negatively impact on your ability to grow and prosper. Even large companies, like Uber, can be literally stopped in the tracks when they get culture wrong.
Recently, the Australian Human Rights Commission released its 2018 report - Everyone’s Business - full of survey results worthy of your business’ review. And no industry was left unscathed. Indeed, workplace sexual harassment was notably higher than the national prevalence rate (33%) in the following industries (many of which we know that you, our clients, work within):
information, media and telecommunications (81% of employees in this industry in the last five years);
arts and recreation services (49%);
electricity, gas, water and waste services (47%);
retail trade (42%);
financial and insurance services (39%);
accommodation and food services (39%); and
education and training (39%).
But look, we know many of you just won’t have the time to read the 188 page report; we get it, that’s a depressing volume of data. So here’s the key takeaways you need to know about:
One in three workers in Australia said they were sexually harassed at work in the last five years, which is a significant increase from 2012;
Sexual harassment was reported at increased rates by both women and men and young workers are at the greatest risk with almost half of 18-29 year old workers reported as being sexually harassed over the last five years;
The vast majority of harassers are men;
And this conduct continues with impunity - only one in five people harassed complained about it, and of those, half said nothing changed as a result;
Two-thirds of people who has witnessed sexual harassment, took no action.
By now we know you’ll be saying ‘how can we help and make sure that this is not happening within our business and our industry?’
Awesome, we’ve got some great tips for you so here goes.
Preventative action that your business can take now to turn #metoo into #notonmywatch
> Lead loudly and by example
As a leader, we encourage you to have a stance on this topic. Tell your employees that you’ve read the findings of this report, that you will not tolerate sexual harassment in your business, and that they can come to you if they have any concerns about such behaviour. Record a video, sit down and address the issue, announce your position to the world so that there are no misconceptions about what is and what isn’t appropriate behaviour within your workforce. By setting out these expectations clearly, not only do you boost your rights to be able to sack someone if they act in breach, but you can also go a long way to preventing harm (and risk and liability) within your business.
> Call it out
Be a company that calls out bad behaviour and doesn’t let things slide. From the racial slur at the Christmas party to a cat-calling incident in the hallways, don’t let these behaviours go, as it’ll set the tone for what is acceptable, and it’s a very slippery slope from sexist remarks to physical sexual assault. Sometimes this will take guts and determination. Sometimes, it may require pulling your top earner into line, or someone in the leadership team. But it’s critical to shifting this culture where sexual harassment is experienced by so many in Australia.
> Empowerment is key
As a leader, your job is to be an enabler. It’s your role to empower everyone within the company, from the most junior staff member to the Chair of your Board, everyone has to know how to raise an issue, who to go to if they’re concerned, and to know that they won’t be criticised for raising the concern - even if the issue turns out not to equate to sexual harassment. Don’t be fearful of an increase in discussion on this topic. Encourage it. Embrace it. The more we talk about it, the more we can break down the stigma associated with making reports, and the more we will educate our team members about what is (and isn’t) sexual harassment.
> Lean in - don’t be afraid to be loud and proud
The faster your business leans into the next era of empowerment and speaking up, the better it will be equipped to deal with a complaint, allegation or crisis.
> Gender equity and diversity is a must
Diversity in all its forms is key to shifting culture and opening up a discussion about appropriate behaviours and new ways of doing things. Gender neutral bathrooms, non-gender specific language in policies/procedures, public support of the LGBTIQA+ community - these are all examples of businesses incorporating inclusive practices to stamp out aggressive hetero, white ‘stale, pale, male’ attitudes that no longer reflect our modern-day workplaces.
> Training is key
Just like we train our staff about how to use our tech systems, we also have to equip our Aussie workers about how to raise the alarm bells if they see something inappropriate. Aussies are notorious for having an attitude of ‘I won’t get involved, it’s not about me’ or ‘I’m just going to keep out of it as I don’t want to bring trouble to myself’. We actually need to give our staff the words and sentences that they need when they’re concerned about someone else’s behaviour in the workplace. We need to go beyond the generic EEO or anti-harassment, discrimination, bullying training and actually run role plays, workshop case studies, and facilitate bystander training so we all know how to raise the red flag - particularly given we all actually have a legislative obligation to do so.
With a ground-swell of better trained new-starters, combined with a younger generation that won’t stand for being made to feel uncomfortable, partnered with a leadership team committed to stamping out harassment, we will start seeing a big shift in Australian businesses, and this will have a positive impact to our depression rates, staff loyalty and retention, along with a reduction in workers’ compensation and stress claims.
Now truly is the time to us to say no to #metoo and yes to #notonmywatch.
Need help to action these steps in your business? At Law Squared, we partner with passionate entrepreneurs and businesses who need our technical help and expertise in many areas. We’d love to have a chat with you, so feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com.
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