Hospo Voice

The Respect at Work Report is a Game-Changer

August 24, 2021

But Scott Morrison wants to bury it

Remember January 2020? It was a long time ago – before all the lockdowns, all the mask wearing and when we could travel freely beyond our state and (gasp!) our country!

January 2020 was also when Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins handed down the Respect at Work report.

Then, 15 months later, in April 2021, the Morrison government finally responded to the report. So now it’s August 2021, what’s next for the Respect at Work report and when can we expect any change?

What the Respect at Work report found

Don’t quite remember what was in the Respect at Work report? Yeah, we don’t blame you, it’s been a long 18 months since they released it.

Nobody (except maybe Scomo and his cabinet buddies) was surprised by the contents of the report, especially not if you work or have worked in hospo.

We were, however, outraged and appalled. 

Here are some of the key points:

Sound familiar? There’s a bunch of hospo workers who fit into those categories.

Which workplaces are at higher risk for sexual harassment at work?

The report found that sexual harassment is more prevalent in some workplaces than others. Workplaces that often have higher levels of sexual harassment include:

There are a few reasons for this. The report highlighted that customer-perpetrated sexual harassment is an almost embedded part of the culture.

“This is due to factors including the gendered nature of service work, a dominant ethos that ‘the customer is always right’, and working conditions (for example, low pay and insecure work) in customer service industries such as hospitality and retail,” the report highlighted.

Another factor is the role of alcohol in unlawful behaviour in the hospitality industry.

Unfortunately, in industries like ours, current reporting structures don’t give us the tools to tackle the issue. Only 17% of workers across all industries report sexual harassment, which is pretty shocking.

And why would they? There aren’t enough protections for the people who report it, particularly when their working arrangement is precarious, like so many in hospitality are.

What the Respect at Work report recommends

There are a massive 55 recommendations in the Respect at Work report. Some recommendations include:

How the government responded

In the Government’s April response, they agreed to all 55 recommendations ‘in principle’. However, they have not committed to fully implement those recommendations.

They haven’t agreed to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to include a duty for employers to take reasonable measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation. Without putting some of these key recommendations in place, there won’t be enough reason for employers to prevent sexual harassment. It isn’t enough for them to just be compelled to act on it after it’s happened.

They haven’t provided better protections for workers to report sexual harassment with a clear complaints mechanism. Unless they give workers better protections, nothing will change.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner should be able to start her own inquiries and have the power to stop sexual harassment.

We also believe the government should grant 10 days of Family and Domestic Violence leave for all workers through National Employment Standards.

We also believe unions like ours should be able to bring representative claims to court.

The current recommendations from the government are too weak and will not make lasting change, which we desperately need.

What’s next?

The bill is currently being debated in the Senate. We hope some of these important points will be considered and the final bill will help eradicate sexual harassment at work.

If this makes you angry, help us fight back. It’s clear we can’t rely on our government to improve this situation, but together as workers we can do something about it. Get involved with our Respect is the Rule campaign and learn more about what you can do about workplace sexual harassment in hospo.

The entire Australian union movement is uniting behind this issue to speak out and demand the federal government implement all of the report’s recommendations. Stand with us in your union – join Hospo Voice today.

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