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Help with sexual harassment and discrimination in workplace dominates the demand for new Respect at Work Legal Service.

New data released by Legal Aid NSW’s Respect at Work Legal Service (“RAWLS”) reveals the concerning number of women seeking assistance due to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination linked to pregnancy, sex and disability.

71 per cent of services were for female clients, with the most common complaints being disability discrimination (27 per cent), sexual harassment (20 per cent) and sex discrimination (14 per cent).

More than 800 employees have sought help and over a thousand advice and representation since the service began in January last year.

In a statement ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Legal Aid said there was a greater awareness of sexual harassment due to the #MeToo movement and the recent introduction of a “positive duty” on employers. This requires them to take action to prevent sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see women experiencing unwelcome sexual behaviours in the workplace, including assaults and inappropriate comments,” said RAWLS solicitor Fiona Pace.

“Sex-based discrimination based on pregnancy or family responsibilities are also common issues we see, with some complaining of losing their job on this basis.”

“The harmful impact of these experiences cannot be overstated,” she said.

For disability discrimination, most of the service’s advice is about workplaces refusing to offer adjustments to accommodate an employee’s disability or health condition.

Pace said, “18 per cent of Australians have a disability and employers should be supporting them to properly participate and thrive in the workplace.”.

Fiona Pace said groups including new migrants, farm workers, young people, Aboriginal people and those from CALD communities are more likely to be affected but often do not seek help.

“So we really encourage people to come forward so we can find the right solution for them, help protect their job and resolve things early on before they escalate.”