The union representing workers in the Australian public sector, the Northern Territory Public Service and the Australian Capital Territory Public Service today released the eleventh What Women Want Survey, the largest survey of working women in Australia.

What Women Want continues to build a longitudinal picture of issues affecting the lives of women at work. This report, based on 2021 data, reflects women’s experience of working from home, coping during a once in a century pandemic, and experiences of sexual harassment.

Access to working from home arrangements was the most important emerging issue for women, a shift from access to flexible working arrangements in 2019. Four out of five (81.9%) stated that working from home in normal work hours was important or very important, up from two thirds (65.6%) in 2019.

But women’s concerns around the management of sexual harassment and assault have sharply increased across the public sector, with little action taken by the Morrison Government:

Only a quarter (26.3%) of women who experienced sexual harassment over the past twelve months reported the incident.

Only one in ten (10%) of those who reported the incident were satisfied with the response. There has been a notable shift in perspectives about how well workplaces address sexual harassment since 2019.

Only three in ten (29.7%) agree complaints regarding sexual harassment are dealt with quickly and appropriately by management, down from two in five (38.0%) in 2019.

A significantly larger proportion of women now disagree or strongly disagree that there is adequate training on sexual harassment (41.1% in 2021 versus 23.5% in 2019), that complaints regarding sexual harassment are dealt with quickly (24.5% in 2021 versus 9.5% in 2019) and that management places importance on eliminating sexual harassment (29.8% in 2021 versus 13.8% in 2019).

CPSU National Secretary, Mellissa Donnelly today said that: “What Women Want details women’s journey to equality across the public and private sector, highlighting the need for government action on safety and respect at work.

“The survey found that flexible work arrangements continue to be a key issue for women, whether that's negotiating part-time work, working from home or accessing leave when needed. These issues are crucial to women's working lives. Working from home is becoming a standard employment condition. We’re seeing that employees will consider finding new employment if their agency does not allow them to work flexibly – and there are now more options available for them to do so.

“Our members have identified an enormous range of issues that contribute to gender inequity and produce a workplace culture that fails to keep them safe. The problem is not that women are failing to propose solutions. The problem is that government and employers are failing to listen and act.

“Empowering women to be engaged and involved in every step of the process is the only way to ensure workplaces develop effective systems that address gender equity and stamp out sexual harassment and gendered violence. As an employer of more than 150,000 Australian public servants, the Morrison Government can establish best practise across public sector workplaces, and lead on the issue

“Last year a CPSU survey of over 3,000 public sector workers revealed that 16% of public sector workers had experienced sexual harassment and 19% had witnessed it, but only 31% reported it to their employer. This edition of the What Women Want Report notes that over the past year there has been growing dissatisfaction with how management deal with complaints.

“The [email protected] Report, which the Morrison Government has failed to fully implement, recommends action to better prevent workplace sexual harassment through improved leadership; risk assessment and transparency; culture and knowledge. Further, it identifies action to better respond to workplace sexual harassment through improved support; reporting; measuring and evaluation.

“Based on these seven domains, the CPSU has developed a ‘Framework for ensuring safe and respectful workplaces’ for implementation in workplaces. We are calling on all Federal Departments and Agencies to sign up to our framework for ensuring safe and respectful workplaces and to engage with our members on its implementation right now.”

A full copy of the report can be found here .