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Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

Nadine Levy and Anne Purdy1

This paper discusses the initial stages of a broader exploration we hope to complete by the end of the year. The desire to explore the issue of sexual harassment in a small business context arose from a study we conducted in 2010 in relation to our clients experiences of sexual harassment at work.2 Our studys findings suggested that sexual harassment involved a clear power imbalance between harasser and target. This imbalance, we posited, was reinforced through a range of factors, including age, position, and a perpetrators sense of control. Moreover, most of the young women workers in our cohort worked for a small business and were harassed by small business owners, managers and supervisors. We suggested that a small business context provided perpetrators with the opportunity to orchestrate situations in which their targets were both mentally and physically vulnerable for example, sexual harassment in this context often happened behind closed doors, in confined spaces, and away from the public eye. As well, it was clear that many of our clients felt too scared to complain about their mistreatment because they had a personal relationship with, and sense of loyalty to, their boss. Alarmed by these findings, we began to search for the existence of anti-sexual harassment tools and resources designed specifically for the small businesses. The result of our search confirmed what we suspected: a notable lack of such resources. This prompted us to design, and ultimately receive funding for, a research project exploring the overarching question: what types of programmes are effective in preventing sexual harassment in small business settings? Our project design involved a mixture of methods: first, a survey of existing literature on the
1

Nadine Levy and Anne Purdy are employed by the Young Workers Legal Service (YWLS) as Industrial Officers. The YWLS is an initiative of SA Unions. It provides advice, support and representation to young workers under the age of 30 with employment difficulties. The authors have had extensive experience advocating in the Equal Opportunities Commission of South Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission.
2

Anne Purdy and Nadine Levy, Experiences of Sexual Harassment amongst Young Women Workers: An Exploration of Power and Opportunity (Paper presented at the Our Work, Our Lives 2010 3rd National Conference, Darwin, 13 August 2010).

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

effectiveness of certain prevention programmes tailored to small businesses; next, an analysis and discussion of a number of existing tools which seek to prevent workplace sexual harassment; and lastly, running a number of focus groups conducted with key stakeholders namely women workers, government agencies, business associations, industry groups, and small business owners. It is hoped that this project will result in set of practical recommendations that will increase small businesses capacity to deal with sexual harassment and ultimately act as a sexual harassment deterrent. This paper briefly discusses the first two stages of this project and suggests some areas requiring further investigation and research.

Why Apply OHS Laws to the Issue of Sexual Harassment During the course of this project we intend to explore the idea of looking at sexual harassment through an OHS lens for a number of reasons. Chief among these is the fact that OHS laws, more so than anti-discrimination laws, adopt a preventative rather than curative approach to workplace injury. Anti-discrimination laws in Australia prohibit sexual harassment; they do not prescribe means from preventing it. Prevention of sexual harassment does bear some relevance to anti-discrimination laws, to the extent that an employer may be sanctioned for failing to take reasonable steps to avert the risk of sexual harassment. However, whether or not an employer has taken reasonable steps is only examined, within the anti-discrimination framework, retrospectively. It is only after an individual has been sexually harassed, and made a sexual harassment complaint, that the issue of taking reasonable steps becomes enlivened as a defense to the legal claim. OHS laws may provide a preventative framework. OHS laws are centered around a risk assessment approach and encourage preventative measures. An OHS lens may also provide a means to deal with the seriousness of the impact that sexual harassment has upon the health of those who suffer it. We found that clients who came to us having experienced sexual harassment had suffered, and often were still suffering, significant mental and physical ill-health as a direct result of their experiences. Looking at sexual harassment through an OHS lens has the capacity to place these effects at the fore and to thereby encourage others to feel empathy for targets of sexual harassment, which might foster a greater motivation to prevent it from happening.

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Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

Finally, we feel that OHS measures tend to be less stigmatized and more widely understood than anti-discrimination laws. Workers and their employers understand OHS and may be more able to discuss it without fear of ill-understood and wide ranging legal implications. We would like to assist discussions to take place within work environments about sexual harassment so that employers and workers can move toward the elimination of this type of mistreatment. OHS and the Special Circumstances of Small Businesses The literature dealing with OHS in small businesses shows that accidents and fatalities are more likely to happen in small businesses than in larger ones. Researchers have postulated a number of reasons for this. Some have suggested that this is connected to the perception, held by some small business owners, that OHS issues are par for the course and to be expected.3 Accidents have also been connected to the informal nature of the relationship between employer and worker in a small business. That is, workers in small businesses often have more of a social relationship with their employer and therefore may be more tolerant of safety hazards.4 They may also be understanding of their employers financial constraints and therefore willing to accept a lack of preventative measures.5 Additionally, some studies have shown that workers and small business owners often see OHS hazards as the responsibility of the individuals in the workplace, rather than something that needs to be addressed systematically, from an organizational perspective.6 Coupled with this, there remains a general lack of knowledge about OHS laws and regulations and their consequences amongst small business owners.7 Programmes and strategies designed for large companies are rarely suited to the needs and special circumstances of the small business owner: most programmes involve formal work systems and the participation of Health and Safety Representatives. A lack of resources,

MacEachen, E; Kosny, A; Scott-Dixon, K; Breslin, C; Kyle, N; Irvin, E; Manhood, Q, Workplace Health Understandings and Process in Small Business: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Literature Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation (2010), 20: 180 198, 189.
4 5 6 7

Ibid 190. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid 193. Page 3

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

perceived or otherwise, can restrict small business owners from adopting these types of measures. That is, a small business owner may believe that they lack the time, money, and staff needed to meaningfully engage with this type of OHS prevention. A number of studies have shown that small business owners feel unable to focus on anything but the core function of their business.8 Moreover, small business owners often lack the management and communication skills needed to implement policies and preventative programmes.9 The small business owner may not have received any training as a manager and as such may not see the benefit of management or risk assessment practices. Another barrier noted in the literature is the fact that small businesses often lack a good relationship with regulating agencies and, for this reason, often use consultants for advice regarding OHS regulation.10 This may limit the small business owners ability to understand the issues relevant to their organisation, as well as to access tools and resources that may be offered by the regulating agency. OHS Interventions and Small Businesses Upon searching for evaluations of OHS interventions, we soon discovered a lack of high quality evidence in respect to the effectiveness of such interventions.11 However, the limited number of studies available show that a combination of training, safety audits, and the use of intermediaries may assist in preventing OHS risks in small businesses.12 One useful suggestion is: [L]inking health and safety to economically significant aspects of work in small businesses in which self interest of small business employers can be manipulated to improve their health and safety arrangements are regarded as

8 9

Ibid.

Walters, D; Lamm, F, OHS in Small Organisations: Some Challenges and Ways Forward, Working Paper 15, July 2003 National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, p 4.
10 11

Ibid, p5.

See Breslin, F; Kyle, N; Bigelow, P; Irvin, E; Morasseai, S; MacEachen, E; Mahood, Q; Couban, R; Shannon, H, Amick III, B, Effectiveness of Health and Safety in Small Enterprises: A Systematic Review of Quantitative Evaluations of Interventions Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation (2010) 20:163-179.
12

Ibid, 179. Page 4

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

positive ways to achieve the results so far eluding more traditional approaches to compliance.13 Additionally, Walters and Lamm suggest the adoption of the following measures: y that business-start up arrangements involve discussion of health and safety requirements; y that training placement organizers require evidence of health and safety arrangements before placing a trainee in a business; y that intermediaries, such as legal advisors, accountants, and chambers of commerce communicate health and safety messages to small businesses.14 Each of these measures requires further consideration and fleshing out. We intend to discuss their practicality and relevance with focus group participants. In particular, we intend to discuss what such measures might look like in a practical sense, and what resources would be required to implement them.

Programmes and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Sexual Harassment A number of programmes which seek to prevent sexual harassment already exist, although few of these are tailored for use in small business contexts. Given what we have learned in the past about the nature of sexual harassment in small businesses, and what we have learned this year about implementing effective OHS programmes in small businesses, we have analysed the strengths and weaknesses of several Australian programmes which aim to prevent sexual harassment. We have considered the legislative framework for causing larger employers to implement their own anti-sexual harassment programmes in Australia, contained by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act.15 As well, we have examined materials produced by two federal
13

Walters, D; Lamm, F, OHS in Small Organisations: Some Challenges and Ways Forward July 2003 National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, p 14.
14 15

Ibid, 15. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth). Page 5

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

Government agencies charged with the responsibility of preventing sexual harassment, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Our evaluation of these resources is discussed below.

Employer Workplace Programmes and Self-Evaluation Under the EOWW Act The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act16 (EOWW Act) imposes an obligation on particular Australian workplaces to implement an equal opportunity for women in the workplace programme17 (EOWW Programme) which, broadly, seeks to ensure that: (a) appropriate action is taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination by the relevant employer against women in relation to employment matters; and (b) measures are taken by the relevant employer to contribute to the achievement of equal opportunity for women in relation to employment matters.18 The EOWW Act provides seven issues which are deemed to be employment matters.19 Employment matter six is: Arrangements for dealing with sex-based harassment of women in the workplace.20 Individual employers need not prepare and implement an EOWW Programme which addresses all seven defined employment matters. Rather, employers are required to address only those matters which they have self-identified as being priority issues.21 Those workplaces which are covered by the EOWW Act, and therefore required to develop and implement an EOWW Programme, are employers with 100 or more workers, and higher
16 17

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth).

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 6. See also, Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 8.
18 19 20 21

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 3. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 3. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 3. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 8. Page 6

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

education institutions.22 The provisions of the EOWW Act largely do not extend to workplaces with less than 100 employees. Thus, application of the Act is significantly limited. This is particularly so given data which shows that women are more likely than men to be located in organisations with less than 100 employees and that casual workers, who comprise about one third of all women workers, are concentrated in small businesses.23 During the formulation of the EOWW Act, the issue of whether or not to extend the Acts application to employers with fewer than 100 workers was discussed. This option was, however, dismissed as being too burdensome to small businesses.24 Whether or not all businesses with less than 100 employees could be regarded as small businesses is debatable.

In addition to designing and implementing EOWW Programmes, tailored to their self-identified equal opportunity shortcomings, employers covered by the EOWW Act must prepare and submit a public report relating to its EOWW Programme.25 Such reports are required to be submitted to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) of the federal Government every 12 months.26 In turn, EOWA causes these reports to be published online in a searchable database which can be found through the Agencys website.27 The public reports prepared by EOWW Act employers may contain a self-evaluation of the effectiveness of the particular workplaces EOWW Programme.28 However, it need not. If an employer elects not to include an evaluation of the outcomes of its EOWW Programme, it must submit a second, confidential report regarding this matter to the EOWA.29 The information in this

22 23

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 3.

Glenda Strachan and John Burgess, W(h)ither Affirmative Action Legislation in Australia?, Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (2000) 5:2 46 62, 46-7.
24 25

Explanatory Memorandum, Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 1999 (Cth). Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 13. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 13A.

26 27

Commonwealth Government of Australia, Online Searchable Database of Reports (2010) Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency <http://www.eowa.gov.au/Reporting_And_Compliance/ Online_Searchable_Database_Of_Reports.asp> at 21 August 2011.
28

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 13 (3). Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 13 (3) and 14. Page 7

29

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

confidential report is protected from disclosure by the EOWA.30 Thus, employers covered by the EOWW Act may keep the success or otherwise of their individual EOWW Programme private. The online database of employer-prepared reports provided by the EOWA can helpfully be searched by employment matters, states or territory, industry, year of submission, and workplace size. There are currently 13,369 reports which deal with sex-based harassment available through the EOWA database.31 To examine all of these reports is beyond the scope of the present paper, but an initial examination of a small portion of these reports indicates that their usefulness as sources of information about effective, sexual harassment prevention programmes, may be somewhat limited. As mentioned above, employers covered by the EOWW Act are not obligated to implement an EOWW Programme that deals with all employment matters of relevance to equal opportunity to women. As such, some employers might omit sexual harassment from their EOWW Programme altogether and, consequently, also omit the issue from their report to EOWA. An analysis of the reports contained in EOWAs database indicates that roughly 50% deal with the issue of sexual harassment to some extent. However, this percentage changes when we look at specific industries and, in particular, those industries where the incidence of sexual harassment is highest. To use an example, previous research shows the retail industry is amongst those with the highest rates of sexual harassment.32 It might therefore be expected that EOWW Act employers in this industry would report more frequently on issues of sexual harassment than others. However, this is not the case. In the retail trades, only 39% of EOWW Act employers reported on issues of sexual harassment in the 12 months between 2009 and 2010, compared with 54% across all industries.33 In fact, in 2007 2008, EOWA reported that sexual harassment

30 31

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) s 32.

Out of a total of 26,575 reports: Commonwealth Government of Australia, Online Searchable Database of Reports (2010) Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency <http://www.eowa.gov.au/ Reporting_And_Compliance/Online_Searchable_Database_Of_Reports.asp> at 22 August 2011.
32

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 20 Years On: The Challenges ContinueSexual Harassment in the Australian Workplace (2004).
33

Commonwealth Government of Australia, Online Searchable Database of Reports (2010) Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency <http://www.eowa.gov.au/Reporting_And_Compliance/ Online_Searchable_Database_Of_Reports.asp> at 23 August 2011. Page 8

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

was the least addressed issue, after conditions of work, within the retail trades according to reports submitted to the EOWA.34 The reliance placed on self-identification, resolution, and reporting of issues affecting equal opportunity for women in the workplace in the EOWW Act is an obvious limitation. Those employers who face the risk of sexual harassment occurring in their workplaces are perhaps less likely to be able to identify it. This conclusion is supported by Strachan and Burgess, whose examination of reports submitted to the EOWAs predecessor, the Affirmative Action Agency, shows that female dominated industries, like the retail trades, are generally poor reporters who tend to perceive affirmative action as being less relevant to their business than others.35 The data available from the EOWA report database is also significantly limited by the fact that employers may choose to not publicly report their self-evaluations of their EOWW Programmes. A preliminary inspection of the EOWA database indicates that a significant number of employers may choose to keep this aspect of their report confidential. Looking again at the retail trades industry as a case study, Of the 11 reports dealing with sexual harassment submitted to EOWA by retail trades businesses with less than 200 employees in 2009 - 2010, seven chose to submit a public evaluation report. Those employers who undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of their EOWW Programme and report negative findings are perhaps more likely than others to make their evaluation public. Conversely, those employers who submit public evaluation reports have a strong incentive to include positive information within their report, thereby promoting the success of their business. Among the seven employers referred to above, gritty self-evaluations were rare, if not absent. Three of the organizations which chose not to make the evaluation part of their report confidential offered more self-advertisement than serious evaluation. One stated simply that, [a]ll identified issues from last reporting period have been addressed and implemented. No evidence in support of this conclusion was referred to, nor indeed required by the EOWW Act.

34 35

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Industry Vertical: Retail (2009) 17.

Glenda Strachan and John Burgess, W(h)ither Affirmative Action Legislation in Australia?, Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (2000) 5:2 46 62, 52-3. Page 9

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency Guide for Employers In addition to administering the requirements of the EOWW Act, EOWA itself provides a range of resources for employers in relation to the aim of preventing sexual harassment.36 Primary amongst these is its guide, Arrangements for Dealing with Sex-Based Harassment37 (the EOWA Guide). The EOWA Guide provides information intended to assist employers to successfully comply with the requirements of the EOWW Act. It reflects the Acts requirement that employers go about analyzing their workplace, before creating an EOWW Programme, and undertake a process of self-identifying priority issues within their workplace. It should be remembered that the EOWA Guide is published for an audience comprised of large employers. Nonetheless, the Guide does not assume that all employers will already have a sexual harassment policy in place. The EOWA Guide provides a range of questions which employers may ask about their business in order to begin identifying issues of key importance to their equal opportunity for women status.38 The EOWA Guide encourages employers to think about their existing policies, complaints procedures, and methods for monitoring sexual harassment issues in the workplace. Overall, the EOWA Guide refrains from being prescriptive. However, the ideal of implementing a sexual harassment policy is put forward, along with the suggestion that such a policy should not remain on the shelf but be implemented within the business in an active manner.39 The EOWA Guide encourages the involvement of management in the development of policies and prevention of sexual harassment.40 The Guide highlights the risks to business of sexual harassment, but does not frame those risks within legal liability in particular. Rather, the EOWA Guide refers to: the maintenance of
36

Commonwealth Government of Australia, EM6 Resources Sex-Based Harassment (2010) Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency <http://www.eowa.gov.au/Developing_a_Workplace_ Program/Employment_Matter_Resources/EM_6_Resources.asp> at 23 August 2011.
37

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Employment Matter Guidelines: Arrangements for Dealing with Sex-Based Harassment.
38 39 40

Ibid 2. Ibid 4. Ibid 3-4. Page 10

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workplace morale, productivity, and trust; worker and business effectiveness; the minimisation of legal and other costs associated with sexual harassment complaints; and the desire to avoid brand-damaging publicity.41 At times, the language adopted by the EOWA Guide in attempting to justify the adoption of measures to address sexual harassment tends toward othering women. For example: Keep in mind that women are not a homogenous group but reflect the diversity of the larger population. By recognising and valuing womens differencesin the management of workplace issues, your business stands to benefit from the range of skills and experiences they are able to contribute.42 The EOWA Guide positions sexual harassment within broader species of harassment. It makes the suggestion that a sexual harassment policy be supplemented with a policy about harassment generally,43 and refers employers to a case study on harassment.44

Australian Human Rights Commission Code of Practice for Employers The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has prepared a resource called Effectively Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment: A Code of Practice for Employers45 (the AHRC Code of Practice), along with a sister resource, Effectively preventing and responding to sexual harassment: A Quick Guide.46

41 42 43 44 45

Ibid 1. Ibid 1. Ibid 3. Ibid 6.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Effectively preventing and responding to sexual harassment: A Code of Practice for Employers (2008).
46

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Effectively preventing and responding to sexual harassment: A Quick Guide (2008). Page 11

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

The AHRC Code of Practice discusses sexual harassment in the context of the federal Sex Discrimination Act47 (the Act), which prohibits sexual harassment in employment, and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act,48 which provides a legal course of redress for those who experience sexual harassment in employment. The AHRC Code of Practice seeks to define sexual harassment for employers and to explain where the limits of laws against such conduct lay. The creation and implementation of workplace policies dealing with the issue of sexual harassment is strongly recommended by the AHRC Code of Practice. According to the code, the development and promotion of a written policy which makes it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances is a key aspect of prevention.49 Of particular relevance to our research, the AHRC Code of Practice includes guidelines specifically targeted at small businesses,50 and a discussion of how to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.51 In its discussion of the prevention of sexual harassment, the AHRC Code of Practice places employers legal obligation to take reasonable steps toward the prevention of sexual harassment at the fore. Its section on prevention is titled, Preventing sexual harassment: All reasonable steps.52 The section does not position prevention within a moral framework, but rather talks about the avoidance of legal liability and risk. The AHRC Code of Practice highlights the fact that larger employers may need to take greater preventative action than their smaller counterparts in order to fully discharge their legal obligations.53 That a prior history of sexual harassment, pre-existing gender hostility, geographical isolation, the requirement that people work in close proximity to one another, or the presence of live-in arrangements might also be relevant to consideration of how much an employer should do to prevent sexual harassment is given lesser prominence.54
47 48 49

Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth).

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Effectively preventing and responding to sexual harassment: A Code of Practice for Employers (2008) 3.
50 51 52 53 54

Ibid 37. Ibid 21. Ibid 21. Ibid 21. Ibid 21. Page 12

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

The AHRC Code of Practice states that, [t]o prevent sexual harassment an employer should have a sexual harassment policy, implement it as fully as possible and monitor its effectiveness,55 but points out that a written policy alone is not sufficient: The key to preventing sexual harassment is for employers and management to make it clear to every employee and workplace participant that sexual harassment is unacceptable in the workplace. This can be done by developing a clear sexual harassment policy, communicating it to each workplace participant and making sure that it is understood. In addition, it is important that appropriate behaviour be modelled by management throughout the workplace. A written policy on its own is insufficient. A policy that is not implemented through communication, education and enforcement will be of little or no use in discharging liability.56 Throughout, the AHRC Code of Practice makes it clear to employers that the creation of a culture of equality and respect, or positive workplace environment,57 is essential to preventing sexual harassment. The AHRC Code of Practice gives a high priority to the need to engage high level management in the creation of such a culture and for managers within the workplace to model good behavior themselves.58 In addition to the formulation of sexual harassment policies, the AHRC Code of Practice recommends that employers provide their staff with regular training and information about sexual harassment.59 The AHRC Code of Practice seeks to assist employers by offering information on how to formulate a sexual harassment policy and discussing the essential elements of such a document.60

55 56 57 58 59 60

Ibid 22. Ibid 22. Ibid 23. Ibid 22-3. Ibid 23. Ibid 24-7. Page 13

Young Women, Sexual Harassment, & OHS in a Small Business Context

The Codes section for small businesses highlights the fact that even the smallest business is likely to need a sexual harassment policy in order to discharge the onus of taking all reasonable steps in law.61 Whereas the AHRC Code of Practice emphasizes elsewhere that, [w]hat is reasonable for a large corporation may not be reasonable for a small business,62 two quotes are provided in the section for small businesses which show that Courts have repeatedly said that the Act does not distinguish between small and large employers.63

Conclusion

The resources which we have examined during the course of our research have strengths as well as weaknesses in their ability to be adapted to the small business context. The latter resources, the EOWA Guide and the AHRC Code of Practice, both appeal heavily to employers sense of self-interest, which the literature on OHS programmes for small businesses suggests may be an advantage. The EOWA Guide appealed to a range of employer interests, including their financial interests. The AHRC tended to take an indirect route to appealing to employers financial self-interest, by talking to employers desire to avoid litigation. This approach may lend a sense of urgency to the issue of sexual harassment that could compel small business owners to deal with it, in spite of limits upon their time and other resources. However, taken too far, this approach to preventing sexual harassment bears the risk of divorcing the issue from its ethical foundations, as the language sometimes adopted by the EOWA Guide demonstrates. From a philosophical perspective, we believe that we need to carefully consider whether or not we are comfortable framing sexual harassment as a financial, rather than feminist, issue. The EOWW Acts approach of requiring employers to look inwards, and conduct a selfevaluation of equal opportunity in their workplaces, carries the benefit of allowing employers to implement preventative actions which suit their particular limitations and individual workers. In the small business context however, this advantage may be outweighed by the fact that small businesses, more so than large employers, are unlikely to perceive themselves as having time to conduct detailed analyses, investigations, programmes, and evaluations. As well, small
61 62 63

Ibid 37-39. Ibid 21. Ibid 39. Page 14

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businesses, where a number of women are employed as casuals, are less likely to perceive the importance of equal opportunity for women or the relevance of this issue to their organisation. Our research in relation to OHS programmes in small business contexts also reveals that small businesses are unlikely to perceive the need for systemic change. Self-implemented preventative actions might therefore be more likely to be informal, individual, and therefore less effective. Whereas small businesses might not be good self-regulators, our research has also shown that small businesses are also unlikely to share good relationships with regulators, such as EOWA and the AHRC. Small business managers are less likely than managers of larger organisations to seek materials from regulating authorities. The likelihood of small business managers actually coming across the AHRC Code of Practice or EOWA Guide is perhaps therefore low. Small business owners typically have less knowledge about OHS laws that apply to them and the consequences of breaching those laws. We extrapolate that small business owners are also unlikely to have a great deal of knowledge about sexual harassment laws or sanctions. The AHRC Code of Practice in particular addresses this issue with its informative content. The length of the AHRC Code of Practice might discourage some small businesses from reading it in its entirety, however its division into short sections addresses this potential issue. Of the resources we have examined, the AHRC Code of Practice is the only one aimed at preventing sexual harassment in small businesses, as well as larger ones. The AHRC Code of Practice draws distinctions between the requirements of small and large businesses which minimise the responsibilities of small business and might discourage small business owners from addressing the prevention of sexual harassment. We believe that small businesses should not be encouraged to think that they have a lesser responsibility in relation to the prevention of sexual harassment. While the same degree of preventative measures might not be required of small businesses by anti-discrimination laws, the effect of a sexual harassment complaint upon a small business may be far more grave, given their limited resources and close-knit nature. As well, focus on the legal responsibilities of small businesses alone neglects the other impacts of sexual harassment, which may be felt in a range of other ways by both people within small businesses and the community more broadly.

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We look forward to consulting with focus groups about our ideas and findings. By the end of this year, we hope to produce a tool for use in small businesses which effectively prevents sexual harassment and does so in a way which respects targets of this behavior and the needs of small businesses.

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