Finance employees struggle to recognise sexual harassment at work

New report suggests low reported cases in Australia due to lack of understanding of illegal behaviours

Finance employees struggle to recognise sexual harassment at work

A new report is suggesting that employees in Australia's finance industry find it hard to recognise behaviours that can be considered sexual harassment.

The Finance Sector Union's (FSU) report revealed that "every single employer disclosed that their workplace was at low risk for sexual harassment."

In fact, only nine per cent of the report's over 400 respondents said they experienced sexual harassment at work in the past 12 months.

But when asked if they had experienced behaviours that are commonly understood to constitute sexual harassment in the same period, 40% confirmed they had A breakdown of these behaviours as experienced by finance employees include:

  • Putting you down or acting in a condescending way toward you because of your gender (29%)
  • Repeatedly telling sexist stories or jokes that were offensive to you (28%)
  • Referring to people of your gender in insulting or offensive terms (28%)
  • Making offensive remarks about your appearance, body, or sexual activities (16%)
  • Giving negative or disparaging feedback that makes sexual references (14%)

Perpetrators of these behaviours were mostly co-workers (41%) or members of management (28%), the report added.

"It is clear from the findings of this report that finance workers have not been provided with effective education about the sort of behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment and that when harassment occurs, they have little faith in corporate reporting systems," said FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano in a statement.

Reporting sexual harassment

Meanwhile, the report also found that among those who experienced sexual harassment at work, only half of them reported it.

Among them, 60% were not satisfied with how their complaint was treated, while a majority were unhappy with how they were informed about their complaint's status.

For those who chose not to report harassment, more than 80% said it was because they didn't think anything would be done if they filed a complaint.

More than 70% also said they did not trust the complaint and resolution process, adding that lodging a complaint might hurt their career.

"It is clear that finance industry reporting systems are distrusted and underutilised. This distrust has led to a flawed understanding of the breadth of sexual harassment by employers," the report read.

It recommended the adoption of a tiered intervention approach to manage sexual harassment in the finance industry.

"This method will centre on victims, believe workers when they make complaints, and demonstrate that when you talk about 'zero tolerance' your actions show that you mean business," the report read.

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