The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has released research on ASX 200 companies’ effectiveness in addressing and preventing sexual harassment in its workplaces.
Delivered by the Australian Human Rights Commission – led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and commissioned by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors – 59 per cent of ASX 200 companies participated in the research survey.
The study found that 64 per cent of companies have systems in place that “identify and mitigate risk factors” for sexual harassment, while 19 per cent of companies reported that its board has “primary accountability for the prevention and response to sexual harassment”.
“Workplace sexual harassment causes immense social and economic harm, with the annual cost to the Australian economy estimated to be $3.8 billion in 2018,” Ms Jenkins said.
“I welcome ACSI’s initiative in commissioning this survey and report, and their recognition of the critical role that ASX200 boards and executive management have in preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment.”
The report also outlined eight recommendations for boards to adopt to further prevent and respond to sexual harassment including improving leadership, skills and experience, culture, systems and frameworks, executive alignment, transparency to drive outcomes, investors, seeking information on investee entities systems and processes and advocate improved transparency on public disclosure of cases of harassment.
“All organisations need to approach sexual harassment seriously and have measures in place to prevent sexual harassment and to deal with it effectively when it arises. This is a fundamental part of providing a safe workplace for all employees,” ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said.
“There is plenty of evidence over recent times that companies that fail to appropriately manage this issue do significant damage. Long term investors have an interest in ensuring the companies they invest in are well run, safe for their employees, and have culture that prevents and addresses workplace sexual harassment when it occurs.
“At the moment it is very difficult for investors to assess how well companies are addressing issues of sexual harassment and disclosures are limited.
“The high level of participation in the research demonstrates that companies have a strong interest in understanding what better practice looks like.”
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