A "disturbingly large" proportion of staff at Warrnambool City Council have been subjected to harassment and inappropriate behaviour, a newly released report has revealed.
But the city's chief has declared such behavior "must stop" and the time for change has arrived.
The council has now made its Gender Equality Action Plan public after Cr Ben Blain complained last month that details were being kept hidden.
The issue was raised at the March council meeting where deputy mayor Debbie Arnott highlighted the problems of bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The council's chief executive officer Peter Schneider said in the foreword a staff survey had revealed a "disturbingly large" proportion of staff had experienced harassment and inappropriate behaviour directly related to gender bias.
"This must stop," he says.
Mr Schneider says while the plan was required by legislation, based on in-house surveys it was "much needed" in the workplace.
"The plan describes the cultural shift that is required to bring about gender equality and the time for this to occur has arrived," he says.
A Victorian Auditor General survey in the report found 27 per cent of Warrnambool City Council staff had experienced sexual harassment - although just 22 per cent of the 643 staff actually responded to the survey which was carried out in December 2020.
Another survey in the report found 11 per cent of respondents at council experienced sexual harassment - higher than the industry standard of seven per cent.
Of those who said they had suffered sexual harassment, 12 per cent said it happened every few days.
The report lists harassment as suggestive comments, jokes, intrusive comments about life or appearance and inappropriate contact.
Despite the numbers of people saying they had been subjected to such behaviour, only one person had made a complaint.
The report said it was concerning that formal complaints weren't made because people feared negative consequences for their reputation or career, while many thought it wasn't serious enough or it wouldn't make any difference.
When it came to pay rates, the report found men were paid 34.4 per cent more than women but noted women were in lower paid and part-time roles.
The survey also highlighted other "concerning" responses which found the city council scored below average when it came to promotion, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
In drawing attention to the issues last month, Cr Arnott said no one should have to come to work fearing how they would be treated.
While Cr Blain said the council had its issues, like any large organisation - especially on gender equity - he had questioned why the council was not releasing the action plan.
"I do wonder how we can be a leader when we aren't showing the work that we are doing in our backyard and just putting out a statement instead. I find this really disappointing," Cr Blain said.
The plan has now been posted to the council website.
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