Victorian employers would be required to report sexual harassment incidents to a workplace health and safety regulator under a new government reform plan.
Earlier this week, the state government announced the establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce on Workplace Sexual Harassment to develop reforms that will prevent and better respond to sexual harassment in workplaces.
The Taskforce will consider ways to strengthen the occupational health and safety framework to address sexual harassment, clarify employer obligations to boost accountability, encourage and support workers to speak up and consider measures to prevent the misuse of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment matters.
Importantly, a key initiative will be developing, through consultation, a mandatory incident notification scheme where employers would be required to notify WorkSafe Victoria of incidences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
WorkSafe inspectors will also undergo targeted training on best-practice responses for sexual harassment incidents.
Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt said the scheme would make sexual harassment prevention a shared responsibility.
“A mandatory incident notification scheme will ensure the onus is not just on victims to report, but that employers have clear obligations – and will mean sexual harassment can’t be swept under the carpet.”
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in three people have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years – highlighting the urgent need to tackle this pervasive workplace health and safety problem.
A new WorkSafe campaign, “Let’s Be Very Clear”, was launched simultaneously. The campaign will raise awareness of what workplace sexual harassment is, educate employers on their responsibilities and encourage workers to call out unacceptable behaviour when they see it.
Targeting high-risk industries, the “Let’s Be Very Clear” campaign will reinforce that protecting workers from sexual harassment in the workplace is every employer’s responsibility – and that failing to do so is against the law.
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