Australian employers will see their insurance premiums skyrocket if they do nothing to reduce or eliminate the risk of sexual harassment, a Sydney employment lawyer has warned.
The warning comes in light of a growing movement against sexual predators, called #MeToo, that has swept the entertainment industry and is expected to cut across industries, leading to a spike in sexual harassment complaints.
“I anticipate that if more people come forward and bring claims, or go off work injured as a result of sexual harassment, then the natural conclusion is that insurance premiums will rise,” John Laxon told news.com.au
Laxon said a spate of sexual harassment complaints could financially impact employers when it comes to insurance costs, because they are legally liable for injuries received by employees “either at or away from their place of employment.”
“So you can easily foresee that if the sexual harassment causes or contributes to an injury or the onset of that injury, then that’s a loss that the victim suffers because of the conduct of the harasser, and that’s something for which an employer will be — and has been — held vicariously liable,” he told the news agency.
Laxon said bosses would have to foot the bill for costs incurred from any WorkCover claims, personal leaves, or litigation process.
He also proposed that a simple solution was for employers to fix their policies to eliminate or reduce the risk of sexual harassment at work.
“It’s almost impossible to avoid all risk, but if an employer has proper policies and procedures in place, training seminars for staff... then that could prevent, or at least reduce, the risk of these types of incidents and unlawful behaviours occurring, and as a result you might think claims would be reduced,” Laxon told news.com.au. “But obviously, if an employer does not have adequate policies and procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment, and is subjected to a number of claims for injuries that are suffered because of conduct of employees who harass, then it follows that will have a direct impact on premiums.
Laxon said sexual harassment can lead to all sorts of injuries that can impact a person’s ability to work, particularly psychological effects such as adjustment disorder, depression, and PTSD.
“So long as there’s a causal connection between the sexual harassment and the injury, if claims are made and money has to be paid out, or if a worker goes off injured and their compensation has to be paid by the insurer, then you would expect that premiums will be reviewed and will rise,” Laxon told news.com.au
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