Employers would be forced to report incidents of sexual harassment to the workplace health and safety regulator under reforms flagged by the Victorian government.
It’s one of the changes to be looked at by a task force aimed at making workplaces safer for women, Acting Premier James Merlino says.
“That would mean that an employer would be required to report to WorkSafe any incident of workplace sexual harassment,” he told reporters on Monday, which marks International Women’s Day.
“No one should be subject to the disrespect, the humiliation, the intimidation of sexual harassment. No one.”
The task force is due to report back to the government by the end of the year, and will be co-chaired by MP Bronwyn Halfpenny and Maurice Blackburn principal Liberty Sanger.
It will work out the threshold for triggering a mandatory sexual harassment report and how this will be enforced.
How to better protect complainants from adverse repercussions when they do speak up will also be priority, the government says.
Current workplace health and safety laws include obligations for employers to provide a safe environment.
But Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt says the system as it stands is not working and more needs to be done.
When asked whether the reforms would extend to cover parliament itself, Ms Stitt pointed to a possible code of conduct to govern MPs’ behaviour.
“It doesn’t matter what workplace you work in, there are behaviours that are clearly unacceptable and there needs to be a much stronger response in place,” she said.
She also stressed the task force was not intended to cut across police investigations into criminal allegations.
Bartender Grace Dowling said she had experienced sexual harassment ranging from innuendo to physical violence.
The unionist said enough was enough and believed the task force would help end the normalisation of workplace sexual harassment.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said workplace complaints procedures should be strengthened but he raised concerns that mandatory reporting could deter women from coming forward.
“Some women would feel very nervous about a complaint in a workplace that then went to an agency outside the workplace,” he said.
One in three people surveyed by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2018 said they had been sexually harassed at work during the previous five years.
Victoria’s announcement comes amid fallout from rape complaints at federal parliament.
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by fellow ministerial adviser in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in 2019.
Attorney-General Christian Porter is on leave after it was alleged he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988.
Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations, stemming from when he was 17 years old.