In 2018, sexual harassment was at the forefront of the public psyche. In response to an industrial landscape rife with sexual harassment, the Respect@Work campaign was launched. After two years of research, in March 2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission (“AHRC”) released the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (“the Report”) which made 55 recommendations to prevent sexual harassment and to improve responses to complaints. Among these recommendations was the concept of imposing a ‘positive’ duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The rationale was that this approach will lighten the burden on victims and attempt to overcome circumstances where employees feel they are unable to make complaints or adequately resolve issues, due to fears around job security or being treated differently.
Workplace Bullying as an issue is not new, however it remains very prevalent in Australian workplaces. In fact, in research conducted by the Australian Workplace Barometer at the University of Adelaide in 2021, Australia ranked third worst in bullying rates compared to 34 countries in Europe. In research conducted by the same organisation in 2019, it found that two thirds of employees suffered from bullying at work.
Bullying in the workplace is very bad for business. Not only can it result in significant legal claims, but more often than not, it translates into lost revenue as a result of personal leave days, absenteeism, lack of motivation and productivity and poor morale and turnover of employees.