SDA to shed light on “alarming” rate of sexual harassment in the workplace

Members of Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) are being invited to participate in an in-depth survey about their experience of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The confidential survey, which is being conducted by Roy Morgan on behalf of the SDA and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), aims to better understand the scope of the issue so steps can be taken to address it.

The survey comes after a 2018 national survey by the AHRC revealed that 42 per cent of retail workers and 39 per cent of fast food workers had experienced sexual harassment at work in the previous five years, the 4th and 7th highest rate of all industries in Australia.

Warehousing ranked 14th, with 24 per cent of workers surveyed having suffered from sexual harassment at work in the last five years.

Gerard Dwyer, national secretary of the SDA, called these figures a major concern and said the issue needs to be urgently addressed.

“Thousands of retail and fast food workers are under the age of 18 and in their first job. The fact that such a high number of these young people will be faced with sexual harassment in this first job experience is completely unacceptable,” Dwyer said.

“This is not a just a workplace problem, it is a community problem and governments, business, unions and customers all must take responsibility to address it.”

According to the AHRC, 30 per cent of retail and fast food workers surveyed who experienced sexual harassment at work said they were harassed by a customer.

Examples of sexual harassment that fast food workers anonymously reported to the SDA in 2018 include customers asking for underage staff members’ phone numbers and making inappropriate comments.

“A customer said oh, you’re the area manager? I’d let you manage my area”, one fast food worker reported.

“Despite the introduction of Sex Discrimination Act in 1984, workers today are still facing unacceptable and unlawful incidents of sexual harassment in their workplaces,” Dwyer said.

The SDA is encouraging every member to participate in the survey, which launches today and will run over the next four weeks. The final report from the AHRC is expected to be complete in April 2019.

The survey results will be used to inform an action plan to reduce and ultimately eradicate sexual harassment from the workplace, the SDA said.

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