The Australians Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s response to the Respect@Work Report and measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The government has agreed to (in full, in-principle, or in-part) or noted all 55 recommendations in the report and has begun work on nine key recommendations.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said that workplace sexual harassment costs the Australian economy billions and urgently needs to be addressed. 

"The Respect@Work Report painted a dark and disturbing picture of what has gone on in Australian workplaces and we’re pleased to see the Federal Government’s response finally announced. 

"The Report found 39% of women and 26% of men had experienced sexual harassment at work, and that it costs the Australian economy $3.8 billion each year.

"We need a powerful and coordinated response to address this disgusting scourge and the Government’s response is a positive first step," he said. 

In 2020, the Federal Government committed $2.1 million to fund the implementation of nine key recommendations from the report.

This included the establishment of the Respect@Work Council, which will provide the foundation for implementing other recommendations in the report.

Work has already commenced on recommendations including; developing the Respect@Work website as an online platform to provide free, information and education resources for employers and workers; developing training and education resources on the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment as well as the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers; and preparing for the fifth National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian workplaces.

Zahra added that legislative changes will also help the retail sector respond better to sexual harassment incidents. 

"Changes have been announced to various forms of legislation, including the Fair Work Act, which will be amended to include sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal.

"The Government’s commitment to education programs and prevention strategies are also a positive move to stopping harassment from occurring in the first place.

"Everyone has an important role to play – Governments, industry groups, employers and employees – to ensure we deliver safe workplaces and deliver the cultural change that is so desperately required," he said. 

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