We spend a third of our lives at work and we all deserve to be safe, feel respected, valued and given every opportunity to thrive.
It's vital leaders are tuned in to the safety and wellbeing of their workforce - but this is still not happening.
One in three Australians have been sexually harassed at work, but fewer than 18 per cent made a formal complaint, while 40 per cent of people who did make a formal report said no changes occurred at their workplace as a result of that complaint, according to the Human Rights Commission's latest data.
The system is broken and long overdue changes to the Sex Discrimination Act are now becoming enforceable from this week.
The new legal positive duty obligation requires businesses to proactively prevent sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace, not just respond when there's a complaint.
It's a major shift and businesses that don't comply risk court action and damage to their brand.
Workplace sexual harassment is pervasive in Australia and it continues to have significant negative impacts on people's lives. Until now the standard response frameworks have remained ineffective.
Sexual harassment is often perpetrated both within and beyond the physical location of the workplace, and during and after work hours.
One of the new things we are seeing is technology-facilitated sexual harassment - this means unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace using digital technologies like WhatsApp, Slack and LinkedIn.
According to a recent US survey of women who are on LinkedIn at least once a week, over 90 per cent said they received sexual advances, or inappropriate messages at least once, while almost one in four said these messages showed up daily or every other day.
Many men seem to use the platform as a pseudo dating app.
Alarmingly, many of us don't even realise the extent to which it is happening, instead putting it down to blokey or boys-club behaviour.
These changes aren't just affecting the top end of town, all businesses and organisations regardless of their size or level of resources need to be accountable.
An unsafe and disrespectful workplace culture diminishes a businesses ability to attract and retain the best people.
It reduces productivity and creates significant reputational and legal risks.
It also impacts the ability of businesses to attract customers and investors, a critical consideration with unemployment at its lowest and high staff shortages across many industries.
In one case I know of, a woman who made a complaint was made redundant, with the business eliminating the problem by removing the victim, instead of fixing the issue.
It's businesses like this which are in the Australian Human Commission's sights, which now has the power to monitor and enforce compliance of positive duty under the Sex Discrimination Act.
Businesses need to consult with workers and identify circumstances that might increase the risk of sexual harassment occurring and immediately review policies, practices and reporting and response systems to ensure they comply.
It is vital leaders be tuned in to the safety and wellbeing of their workforce.
And now there's a penalty to ensure that safety is a higher priority.
- Prabha Nandagopal is a lawyer who has worked as a director at the Australian Human Rights Commission and founder of Elevate Consulting Partners.