"It is a brave action to stand up and tell your boss what is allowed and not allowed" says Professor Karin Sanders, and more often than not "women blame themselves or are not assertive enough to report sexual misconduct to HR and end up leaving the organisation instead".

Professor Karin Sanders is head of the school of management at UNSW Business School and has conducted research into sexual predators in the workplace, and HR protocols that surround the issues.

"How to handle a situation about which not everyone will know all the facts, and where it boils down to one person's word against another's word, isn't easy," she says. "There is no doubt that senior management are put in a difficult position when cases like this arise."

Social media may have put paid to the days when an employee made an allegation to HR, and HR took time to investigate it while keeping it under wraps until a resolution had been arrived at.

Now HR and other senior managers are caught on the back foot wondering what to do when employees are conversing in anonymous workplace chat rooms or on a public blog about the sexual harassment they face at work.

She argues that organisations should always have a code of conduct that explicitly draws the boundaries around behaviour and this should be enforced. However, often managers "feel it is it's better not to know, it makes it a lot easier. However, sexual harassment is a serious issue wherever and whenever it happens, but when it occurs in an organisational context it also becomes a serious health and safety hazard for employers."

Read more details of the analysis from UNSW Business School at https://www.businessthink.unsw.edu.au/pages/how-have-sexual-predators-thrived-in-the-workplace.aspx/

For further comment contact Karin Saunders on k.sanders@unsw.edu.au

Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887