Exploring workplace violence reporting

A scene from the documentary.

A new documentary has been launched investigating experiences of violence and harassment in workplaces in Georgia and Australia, after a major worldwide poll found the two countries to be at opposite ends of the scale in terms of the reported prevalence of the issue.

The documentary, ‘Digging Deeper’, by Susan Maybud – an international consultant on gender equality and former Senior Gender Specialist at the International Labour Organization (ILO) – seeks to understand drastic disparities in the levels of workplace violence and harassment reported to the World Risk Poll in different countries, focusing on Georgia and Australia as two of the most contrasting examples.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, a unique global study of risks to people’s safety, highlighted Australia as reporting some of the highest levels of violence and harassment in the world, compared with some of the lowest in Georgia.

The Poll, conducted by Gallup, which surveyed 125,000 people across 121 countries on multiple safety topics, found that 48 per cent of respondents in Australia said they had experienced some form of violence and harassment in the workplace in their lifetime, compared to under four per cent in Georgia. The documentary sees Susan travel to both countries to speak to workers’ and employers’ representatives as well as UN agencies and government officials working to tackle the issue.

The documentary explores the situation in the – still relatively new – private sector in Georgia, where active efforts are being made to educate workers and reform laws and regulation to make reporting violence and harassment easier.

Despite the low figures reported to the Poll, local experts suggest that stigma and a lack of understanding may be causing underreporting of a still significant problem.

The documentary explores proactive efforts being made by the tripartite organisations – government, unions, and employers – who are working towards ratification of the ILO’s landmark Convention 190 on eliminating violence and harassment in the workplace.

In Australia, a contrasting story is explored about the high levels of reporting seen there.

In part because of movements such as ‘MeToo’ and high-profile cases of workplace violence and harassment surfacing in the media, many workers, especially young women, appear to feel more able than in many other countries to recognise and report cases.

A clear understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace, as well as improved reporting procedures and regulations mean that Australia’s high figures in the Poll may be better news than it seems.

Discussing the documentary’s findings, Susan Maybud said: “On paper, Australia and Georgia are in completely opposite situations when it comes to violence and harassment in the workplace.

“It was fascinating to be able to film in both of these countries and examine the factors behind reporting in each location. There’s more to the figures than first meets the eye, to which this documentary provides important context,” she said.

“In Australia, while reported experience is alarmingly high, it is encouraging that this does at least seem to represent a growing recognition of what constitutes violence and harassment and a resolve not to tolerate it. This is an essential first step to tackling the problem.

“In Georgia, while more work needs to be done to educate people and provide effective methods of reporting and response, underreporting has been acknowledged and positive efforts are being made.”

In the documentary, Susan also looks closely at specific groups who are at increased risk. In both countries, LGBTQI+ groups are more likely to experience violence and harassment at work, as are migrant workers in Australia.

Ed Morrow, Senior Campaigns Manager at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said: “As the World Risk Poll has found, violence and harassment in the workplace is a prevalent issue across much of the world. However, it is critical that we also understand what is causing disparities in the figures between countries like Georgia and Australia.

“‘Digging Deeper’ was commissioned to explore these issues in depth, and shed light on the factors that may lead to different levels of reporting. This in turn suggests action that can be taken to both increase reporting, improving our understanding of the extent of the problem, and then to root it out.

“This documentary showcases the efforts countries like Georgia are making to improve reporting, as well as the positive impact of stringent regulations and worker education in countries with high reporting like Australia.

“While on the surface, the discrepancy between the figures is great, the documentary shows that countries can learn a lot from each other in tackling violence and harassment in the workplace. We hope it will inspire policymakers, employers and unions everywhere to strive for safer workplaces.”

The documentary and poll can be viewed at lrfoundation.org.uk.