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Retailers welcome changes ahead to protect women from sexual harassment

The 2020 Respect@Work Report, and a range of more recent reports and inquiries, continue to highlight the unacceptable levels of workplace sexual harassment in Australia.

According to the National Retailers Association (NRA), people working in retail are more vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace due to the large proportion of young people and women in the sector.

Now the federal government is taking steps to protect women from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, including amendments to the Fair Work Act. Once enforced, these changes will explicitly ban sexual harassment, make it easier to bring appropriate legal action and establish new cost protections for complainants.

Powerful words

Speaking at this month’s Respect@Work Council Forum, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus began by expressing gratitude to the individuals – particularly women – and organisations who have spoken up about the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Your words are powerful, they are eloquent, they are courageous, and our government has heard you,” he said. “These reforms will improve workplace protections for sexual harassment and improve access to justice for those who experience unlawful sex discrimination.”

The Government has also committed to investing more than $35 million over four years towards Respect@Work implementation – including $24 million to fund Working Women’s Centres across Australia.

Help for retailers

The NRA cautions that, given the current labour shortage crisis, it is more important than ever for employers and policy makers to help create an environment where employees in the retail sector feel safe and protected so that they can thrive in their roles.

“The NRA believes that workplace safety should be the topmost priority for business owners,” said NRA CEO Dominique Lamb. “With sexual harassment permeating the retail sector, the NRA is currently working with SDA [the Union for Retail, Fast Food and Warehousing workers] and the University of New South Wales on how to best help businesses create a safe and transparent workplace.”

The story is originally published on Inside Franchise Business Executive.

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