Workplace Sexual Harassment More Likely To Affect Female And Young Workers: Report

Published November 01, 2019 (last updated July 22, 2020) -

Female workers and young workers are particularly at risk of sexual harassment at work, according to a survey of employees in the retail and fast food industries.

Run by the Australian Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association union (SDA) and its members, the survey gathered feedback from 3,400 workers in early 2019.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Female workers (46%) were more likely to have been sexually harassed in the workplace than males (29%).
  • 39% of all respondents reported being sexually harassed at work
  • Customers were responsible for perpetrating 36% of incidents of workplace sexual harassment (in the last five years)
  • 13% of workers had formally reported their most recent incident of workplace sexual harassment.

“It’s clear that sexual harassment in the industries our members are working in is at a critical level and has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of our members,” SDA National Assistant Secretary Julia Fox said, when announcing the report.

“It’s appalling to find that young female workers, including minors, are more likely to experience sexual harassment in their workplaces than not,” Ms Fox said.

“The SDA will continue its campaign to engage employers to develop and implement effective strategies to eliminate sexual harassment at work.”

One worker Nyakim Nyuon, who has worked in the fast food industry for three years, told the Sydney Morning Herald that she once had to swap name tags with a co-worker.

“She ended up putting a fake name on her name tag,” Nyuon told the SMH. “I’ve had customers filming me without my consent and being flirtatious in a gross way.”

Another, anonymous, submission to the survey read:

“Wearing a badge with our name on it makes customers and sexual predators feel comfortable enough to harass us under the guise of friendliness. It also allows them to think that because they know your name they are entitled to other personal information about you and to touch you. Wearing a name badge also makes it incredibly easy for those same predators to go home and look us up online and then harass us from the comfort of their homes.”

In response the survey, Australian Retailers Association chief Russell Zimmerman said that businesses were concerned about the rising incidence of sexual harassment.

It’s just getting to a point where if we are not careful, staff will be saying I don’t want to work in the retail industry any more,” he said. “… we are a big employer and this becoming a big concern. We employ 1.2 million people, 10 per cent of the working population and we want workers to feel happy.”

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