Major banks pledge to end workplace sexual harassment

by Mike Wood, Jess Bell29 Apr 2021

Some of Australia’s leading businesspeople, including the CEOs of several major banks, have signed up to a pledge to bring an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.

All of the Big Four have signed up, as well as Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, Challenger, Deutsche Bank, ING, Liberty Financial, ME Bank and P&N Bank.

The #IStandForRespect campaign, launched by Diversity Council Australia, has seen a wide range of business leaders promise to have a zero-tolerance approach to workplace sexual harassment and to create a working environment that is safe for everyone.

"As an Australian business leader, I've signed the #IStandForRespect pledge to stand strongly beside my values, and up against gendered harassment and violence,” Salesforce CEO Pip Marlow told our sister publication HRD. “Eliminating harassment and violence means safer and more inclusive environments, and is critical to delivering the innovation that Australia needs to build a better future for all our stakeholders."

Lisa Annese, CEO of Diversity Council Australia and founder of the #IStandForRespect initiative, said it was an opportunity for business leaders to make a public commitment to ending harassment. As well as creating unsafe and dysfunctional workplaces, sexual harassment is conservatively estimated to cost the Australian economy $3.5 billion per year.

“Sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces since 1984, yet it’s still a problem. Now is the time to move from words to committed, collective action,” she said.

“The bottom line is this: businesses can’t afford not to tackle sexual harassment. The #IStandForRespect pledge is a starting point, a way for them to be part of the change that will come.”

Based on the Sex Discrimination Commission’s 2018 survey, 33% of people who had been in the workforce in the previous five years had experienced workplace sexual harassment. The issue was more prevalent among women, with 39% of women and 26% of men having been harassed.

The report’s recommendations call for a number of changes to legislation and workplace culture, including extending the scope of time for victims to make a complaint from six months to two years and amending the Fair Work Act to include sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal.