The survey found that more than half of all respondents (54.8%) had experienced sexual harassment at their most recent workplace or at a previous workplace. 64% of women who responded to the survey had personally experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment at some point in their working lives. A majority (64%) had witnessed sexual harassment at their most recent workplace or at a previous workplace. Respondents had been harassed by a range of people, including co-workers, customers or clients. The largest group of respondents (38%) had been harassed by a supervisor, manager or senior co-worker. Respondents who had experienced sexual harassment had been subjected to a range of inappropriate behaviours including crude or offensive remarks, unwanted sexual attention, inappropriate sexual contact and/or sexual coercion.
The survey looked at how workers responded to sexual harassment and found that only 27% of those who experienced sexual harassment ever made a formal complaint and just over 40% told no-one at all. The two most common reasons given for this were a fear of negative consequences (55%) and a lack of faith in the complaint process (50%). More than a quarter of those who did complain reported less favourable treatment by their employer including being forced to leave or resign, being bullied or having their hours or shifts reduced. Of the minority of people who did complain (27%), most (56%) were not at all satisfied with the outcome, 43% said their complaint was ignored or not taken seriously and 45% said there were no consequences for the harasser.
Professionals Australia (PA) members were more likely to have witnessed sexual harassment than the general survey population (78% compared to 64%) and were on average slightly more likely to make a formal complaint than non-professional respondents. Satisfaction with the complaints process and the resignation of the harasser was markedly higher for PA respondents than for the rest of the survey population. These figures suggest that complaints from professional staff may be taken more seriously and acted upon than in the general workforce. PA members were more likely to be harassed mid-career (in the 30-39 age group) and the harasser is more likely to be a co-worker than a client or customer.
The survey also asked respondents who had experienced harassment what they wanted from employers. The top response was mandatory training for all staff on preventing sexual harassment (50%), followed by an effective complaints mechanism (47%), information to assist with prevention (46%), clear policies on prevention and prohibition of sexual harassment (44%), sexual harassment to be treated as a workplace health and safety issue (32%) and having a clause in an enterprise agreement on preventing sexual harassment (27%).