Young women are being solicited for sex at work and face alarmingly high levels of sexual harassment and bullying from their supervisors, co-workers, customers and clients, new research reveals.
Surveys and interviews with 1000 Australian workers, aged 15 to 24, have found young women believe sexual harassment is “normalised” in their workplaces, and occurs on a daily basis with apparent impunity.
They say it is regularly treated by their employers as a “non-issue”.
The wide-ranging study, conducted to provide a snapshot of the workplace issues facing young Australians, found that 50 per cent of young people were experiencing some form of bullying and harassment on the job.
“I feel that sexual harassment is so common at work that it isn’t treated as an issue,” a 23-year-old female gaming worker said.
“It’s a daily occurrence, and I would be pinpointed as sensitive if I felt uncomfortable by some of the vulgar comments made by customers daily.”
A young woman, 23, from New Zealand, said sexual harassment left her no choice but to quit her previous job in farm work.
She said many of her colleagues, who were in Australia on visas with work requirements, were subjected to the same sexual harassment but didn’t do anything about it. https://e.infogr.am/f5e2706d-e787-432d-ba69-9238aa516991?src=embed
“I had to leave a job because of sexual harassment that my co-workers seemed to deem ‘part of the process’ of getting a second work visa’,” she said.
The troubling findings will be released at Friday’s Young Workers Conference with the Young Workers’ Centre, the Victorian government, and WorkSafe Victoria.
The majority of workplace bullying and harassment (32 per cent) came from customers or clients, according to the report.
Almost one in five experienced bullying or harassment from a boss or supervisor and almost one in five from a co-worker.
I would be pinpointed as sensitive if I felt uncomfortable by some of the vulgar comments made by customers daily.
One in seven young people (15 per cent) cited more than one of these offender categories.
And when it came to workplace safety concerns, one in four young people reported being asked to do something at work that made them feel unsafe. Most said they “did it anyway”.
The Young Workers Centre said some of the stories uncovered through the study were “outrageous and shocking”.
“Young women being solicited for sex at work, being advised to simply ‘wear long pants’ to prevent serious burns from dangerous work equipment, or paying for medical costs for workplace injuries out of their own pocket,” a spokeswoman said.
“The common thread to this … is a widespread fear of retribution fo raising health or safety issues in the workplace. Young workers worried they would be targeted as troublemakers and lose shifts or the jobs entirely.”
Among the report’s key recommendations are for workplace bullying and health and safety training to be made mandatory in high schools for students in year 10 and above, and for sexual harassment to be “specifically defined and recognised” as a workplace safety issue by WorkSafe Victoria.
It also recommends the creation of an online platform – such as Trip Advisor – where users would be able to anonymously rate their experiences with businesses as recruitment candidates or as employees.