Almost one half (45 per cent) of Australian professionals have experienced bullying or harassment at work due to their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays.

The survey of over 1,000 people across Australia and New Zealand found the figure rises to 64 per cent of people living with a disclosed disability, 58 per cent of people who identify as LGBTIQ+, 50 per cent of women and 50 per cent of mature-age people.

Although less men than women overall report bullying or harassment, at 37 per cent it is still alarmingly high.

When asked what steps were taken to stop the bullying or harassment, 41 per cent of respondents said none.

A further 15 per cent of those who experienced bullying and harassment chose to leave the organisation rather than report the behaviour.

Other respondents said they reported the issue to HR, a team leader, supervisor or manager and it was resolved promptly to their satisfaction. This often involved mediation or the appointment of an investigator.

“We chose to explore this issue through a diversity and inclusion lens since bullying and harassment cuts through many of the key diversity and inclusion considerations we have identified through talking to both employers and professionals,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand.

“Measures range from the formal letter of the law, sanctions and workplace guides to day-to-day awareness of leaders and managers and the behaviours of all employees. However, given our findings, it seems that despite a growing awareness of the problem, more needs to be done to stop harassment and bullying at work – for all demographic groups.”

Hays suggests employers could start by becoming aware of anti-bullying laws and follow correct procedures – if they aren’t already.

Australia’s Fair Work Commission produced an anti-bullying guide and Safe Work Australia produced a guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying. Both are available free on the respective websites.