Despite the rallies, the hashtag movements and the celebrity outings, sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t going away. Indeed, it’s on the up, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which found 39% of women and 26% of men were sexually harassed at work in the past five years, with many still afraid to report the abuse.

In its fourth national survey, “Everyone’s business,” the AHRC shells out some sobering insights into today’s workplace environment, where sexual harassment was found to have “increased considerably” in the reporting period.

The AHRC report also offers up some practical, progressive advice for every business, boss and employee.

everyone's business from AHRC

Companies need to lift their game. For a start, the AHRC recommends all employers have a strong, clearly defined sexual harassment policy, which explains bad behaviour and all its ugly manifestations, how to report it, and what are the repercussions. And regular conduct training ought to be available from the ground up.

It’s simple stuff, really. Though the simple facts haven’t filtered in.

Victims of unwanted sexual conduct are still afraid to take matters further, the report finds, for a range of reasons which could have been lifted from a post-war textbook.

Among them: no one will believe me; it’s not worth the trouble; the victim will be blamed or it can damage their career.

The national survey investigated the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment, and on this occasion, more than 10,000 Australians were interviewed, aged 15 to 65.

Just how prevalent is sexual harassment? According to the report, 85% of women and 57% of men over the age of 15 have been harassed at some stage.

“We can learn a great deal from this year’s national survey,” comments Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. “It confirms that sexual harassment is widespread and pervasive. An extraordinary number, one in three people, have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins

“This is a marked increase in the prevalence rate recorded by previous surveys. We cannot be certain if this is due to an increase in sexually harassing behaviours, or to greater awareness of the types of behaviours that constitute sexual harassment, or to other factors.

“What we are certain of is that this is a problem that affects millions of Australians and we, collectively, have a big job ahead to tackle the problem.”

The Australian music industry took steps last year to address some of these issues through the Your Choice campaign, which hopes to stamp out sexual assault and anti-social conduct at concerts and festivals.

For the Australian Human Rights Commission report, click here, and visit Workplace Assured for more information.