A report into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO (fly in-fly out) mining industry in Western Australia says much more needs to be done to create safe and inclusive workforces.
Among other things, the report, titled Enough is Enough, found:
- sexual harassment is prevalent across the industry;
- significant work is required in order for sexual harassment to have the same guidance, process and systems of control in place as those which exist for matters of more traditional workplace safety and
- companies are ultimately responsible for what happens in workplaces, holding individuals to account for their behaviour.
Karen Nelson, the Practice Leader in Ai Group Workplace Lawyers’ Perth team, said many companies were asking what they should do to address the issue.
“The report makes a number of recommendations regarding change directed at companies,” she said.
“Changes in policy, providing appropriate and robust training and addressing safety management plans to include guidance around sexual harassment are all things that the report recommends which Ai Group Workplace Lawyers are well placed to assist companies with.”
Ensuring that allegations of sexual harassment are taken seriously is another way in which companies can address the report’s findings.
“This can either be through creating robust investigation processes within companies, or by appointing an external investigator to complete an independent investigation into the allegations,” Ms Nelson said.
Amber Roncoroni, a Special Counsel in Ai Group Workplace Lawyers’ Perth team, recently took part in trauma response training to better deal with disclosures or allegations of sexual assault in the workplace.
“I’ve developed additional skills to ensure investigations into alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace are performed properly, including developing techniques to minimise the risk of re-traumatisation of the complainant, should it be the case that the allegations are substantiated,” Ms Roncoroni said.
She has since spearheaded a Sexual Harassment Response Team to support more Ai Group Workplace Lawyers colleagues in becoming investigators who are trauma management specialists.
“Ai Group Workplace Lawyers are skilled and experienced in performing complex and sensitive investigations, allowing us to perform them robustly and appropriately,” Ms Roncoroni said.
“We’ve honed our skills because we carry out investigations so frequently.”
Employers who fail to take notice of, and act on, the report’s findings face reputational damage and potentially huge fines.
“The primary concern is people being put at risk of harm,” Ms Nelson said.
“Another concern is the damage that can occur to brand or reputation if news about an incident or allegation finds its way on to social media. The spread of negative information can quickly go beyond a company’s control, and it can do a lot of damage.”
The potential legal consequences for employers and others in the workplace responsible for work, health and safety are significant, Ms Roncoroni added.
Then there is the risk of losing access to talented employees or losing the ones already there.
“Most companies want to be an employer of choice, tapping into all available talent pipelines,” Ms Nelson said.
“That includes increasing diversity in the workforce and improving the ratio of women working in industries and roles that were traditionally male-dominated. We know that having a better gender balance in a workforce can help to change the culture.”
Please contact Ai Group Workplace Lawyers on 1300 55 66 77 for your employment law needs.