The Australian Retailers Association has welcomed the Federal Government’s belated acceptance of recommendations made in the Respect@Work report, handed in by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in early 2020.
The report made 55 recommendations which have been accepted “wholly, in part, or in principle” by the Government, with the definition of ‘serious misconduct’ to be expanded to include sexual harassment – meaning such harassment, when proven, can lead to termination of employment.
“The Respect@Work Report painted a dark and disturbing picture of what has gone on in Australian workplaces for far too long and the measures announced today are a positive step to creating safe work environments for everyone,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said.
“The report found 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men had experienced sexual harassment at work, and that it costs the Australian economy $3.8 billion each year.
“We need a powerful and coordinated response to address this disgusting scourge and the government’s response is a positive first step.”
Zahra said all members of the business industry had a role to play, from governments to industry groups, and from employees to employers, to keep Australian workplaces safe.
The changes come after a number of bombshell allegations of sexual misconduct in Parliament House, with a number of Liberal ministers terminated or shuffled to appease an increasingly angry public. And, with the increased public perception and intolerance to sexual misconduct, retailers have been put in the spotlight as well.
In February, electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi came under fire for an ‘endemic culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment’ in an investigative report by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.
According to the report, which spoke to over 200 JB Hi-Fi employees, the vast majority of workers surveyed (83 per cent) had experienced at least one form of gendered harassment during their employment: such as talk of hiring female staff based on appearance, comments about the bodies of female staff or customers, and use of gendered insults to insult female staff.
A RAFFWU spokesperson has confirmed to Inside Retail that, following the report, the union received a non-committal response which “we characterise as not recognising the seriousness of the issues”.
JB Hi-Fi told The Age at the time that it is committed to ensuring all team members are respected, and that it is an inclusive and welcoming workplace.