Enough is Enough: Implications Of The Parliamentary Inquiry Into Sexual Harassment Against Women In The FIFO Mining Industry

On 23 June 2022, the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee of the WA Parliament handed down the ‘Enough is enough’ report (Report). The Report has sent a shockwave through the community due to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault uncovered in WA’s mining industry.

The Report makes 79 findings of sexual harassment and assault experienced by women in the mining industry. The Report makes 24 recommendations to identify and address these issues at the employer, industry, regulatory and legislative levels. Although the WA Government has not yet committed to adopting all 24 recommendations, employers should anticipate there are likely to be significant changes on the horizon.

Recommendations from the Report

Key recommendations from the Report are for employers in the mining industry to:

  • ensure there are serious repercussions, including dismissal, for any person who has attempted to seek sexual favours for advantage;
  • explore ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment finding reemployment on other sites and other companies including an industry-wide register and probity checks;
  • implement moderate drinking standards for FIFO accommodation sites;
  • improve the gender balance in their workplaces, especially in site-level supervisor and management positions;
  • reduce the high risks associated with labour-hire and sub-contracting, including reviewing information sharing arrangements and establishing clear guidelines for contractors to directly address issues of sexual harassment;
  • establish acceptable standards for accommodation facilities, including security and other safety measures.

Further, the Report recommended:

  • mandatory and ongoing sexual harassment and assault training for all employees. The training should be accredited, fit-for-purpose, and delivered by suitable practitioners. Additional specialist training should be provided to employees who formally respond to incidents;
  • the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety work with mining peak bodies to develop appropriate education and training across the industry for bystanders on reporting incidents of sexual harassment; and
  • mining companies establish a number of internal and external options for reporting and obtaining support for incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Employees must be informed of these options.

Lavan Comment

Unfortunately incidents of workplace sexual harassment and assault are not limited to the mining industry. Employers in all industries are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace and work-related events.  Employers may be vicariously liable if they fail to  take active, preventive measures to prevent sexual misconduct and harassment. A lack of awareness is no defence.

Penalties for employers who fail to provide a safe workplace can be significant.  Recent cases have seen penalties of $1.36 million awarded against employers.

Some important measures employers in all industries can take include:

  • have an up-to-date harassment and sexual harassment policy which includes obligations of bystanders and upstanders;
  • regularly distribute and promote your organisation’s harassment policy which is endorsed by senior leadership;
  • translate policies into community languages (where required) so they are accessible to employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds;
  • establish a complaint procedure that is easily accessible and known by employees;
  • regular and transparent reporting by business units to the Board, senior leaders and external stakeholders in relation to harassment and the actions undertaken by the organisation in response; and
  • ensure mandatory up-to-date harassment and sexual harassment training is undertaken by employees.

If you have any questions about this Alert, the Report or its implications for your business, please contact Lavan’s Employment, Safety and Education team.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.