Bystanders urged to take stand over workplace harassment
Employers and employees are being urged to take a clear stand when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace with a new report from the Human Rights Commission showing bystanders can play a large role in preventing and reducing discrimination and violence.
The research report, Encourage. Support. Act!: Bystander approaches to sexual harassment in the workplace, by Paula McDonald from the Queensland University of Technology and Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong concluded that the promotion of bystander intervention was a “potentially invaluable element” to prevent harassment in the workforce.
“Bystander education can teach people to interrupt incidents of sexual harassment or the situations which lead to harassment,” the report states.
“It can also teach them to challenge perpetrators and potential perpetrators, to provide support to potential and actual victims and to speak out against the social norms and inequalities supportive of sexual harassment.”
Bystanders are individuals who observe sexual harassment firsthand, or are subsequently informed of the incident.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick (pictured), called on employers and companies to help bring cultural change, saying the report offered a comprehensive examination of how bystanders can successfully intervene to reduce the harm to others.
“If we don’t support and encourage the targets of sexual harassment, and any bystanders, to take action, we run the risk of creating cultures that tolerate sexual harassment,” Broderick said.
“It is up to organisations to provide this support and encouragement, thereby making it clear that sexual harassment has no place in our workplaces or in our society.”
A survey by the Inner City Legal Centre of over 600 LGBTI people living in NSW released in June found that just over a quarter had reported having experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace.
While a Central Queensland University study released last year found that only one per cent of GLBT people surveyed had reported incidences of workplace harassment or discrimination to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
The Fair Work Ombudsman also saw a 46 per increase in the number of complaints received in the last financial year, with 10 per cent of the assessed 1,171 complaints relating to discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation.
A copy of the report can be accessed at www.humanrights.gov.au/sexualharassment/bystander