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Qantas rocked by widespread sexual harassment allegations

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In what has proven to be a very bad patch for men behaving badly in the workplace, revelations have emerged that Australia’s national airline, Qantas, has been hit by widespread claims of sexual harassment.

A study conducted by the Everyday Sexism Project and the Trades Union Congress of more than 1500 women, revealed that more than half (52%) of employees have been victims of unwanted sexual behaviour at work – ranging from groping to inappropriate jokes.

This follows on from the sacking last Friday of McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for having a consensual relationship with an employee. To be fair, Easterbrook’s mistake was a failure to follow McDonald’s policy that prohibited sexual relationships where a chain of command was involved – especially between C-suite executives and those who reported directly to them.

ALSO READ: McDonald’s fires CEO over consensual relationship with employee

But the revelations at Qantas are very different indeed.

In another study, a comprehensive survey of about 2400 Qantas employees, undertaken by law firm Elizabeth Broderick & Co, it was found that 25% of female pilots said that they had been the victims of sexual harassment carried out by either a colleague or passenger over the past 12 months, it was reported in the Daily Mail.

The survey revealed that female pilots were twice as likely to be exposed to bullying as their male counterparts.

A total of 67% of female pilots claimed that they believed that sexist remarks were commonplace, in contrast to the male pilots, 50% of which agreed. While 17% of flight attendants revealed they had been sexually harassed by passengers in the past 12 months.

Responding to the findings, Lesley Grant, people and culture Chief executive at Qantas said, “We want Qantas to be better than that. Everyone deserves respect and should feel safe at work and having an honest conversation about these issues is an important step.

“There were some very positive findings from the survey, including that around 80% enjoy working at Qantas, have good relationships with workmates and believe Qantas is inclusive of people from different backgrounds.

“Many said that attitudes towards bullying and sexual harassment had improved over the years, but it's clear we still have work to do,” Grant added.

What can HR do?

Following on from movements like #MeToo, instances involving sexual harassment in the workplace continue to be widespread with fresh allegations making the news on an all-too regular basis.

It is incumbent upon HR to treat any claim of harassment seriously, with the welfare of the employee uppermost in their mind. To achieve this, HR needs to actively create a culture that welcomes open dialogue between employees and their managers – to encourage workers to come forward to report unwanted sexual advances.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development stated that employers should put in place clear policies and a robust framework to tackle the issue head-on, to counter potential harassment and discrimination towards any of its employees, it was reported on the HR Grapevine website.

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