A SHIFT to working from home as a pandemic response is serving up new workplace issues in gendered stereotypes and sexual discrimination in the Ballarat community.
Lawyer Elizabeth Lacey said such issues can come in all shapes, from slotting back into gendered stereotype home burdens to online bullying or family violence.
But all were taking their toll.
Ms Lacey said the far-reaching impacts could be hard to gauge, particularly in changes to hours or maternity leave, being exploited amid the pandemic. Such discrimination could include women being asked to work reduced hours or a lack of flexibility in hours with an increased responsibility when home-schooling.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows women were twice as likely as men to report they performed most of the unpaid domestic work (80 per cent compared to 39) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian women were also three times more likely to have performed most of unpaid caring responsibilities.
The Lacey and Co principal said community legal centres were having an enormous uptake on cases for female working hours were changed or terminated during the pandemic.
As a private firm, the Ballarat-based Lacey and Co - The Integrity Group was seeing a rise in sexual harassment. discrimination and bullying transferring from workplaces into home offices.
Physical distancing doesn't stop sexual discrimination when conduct is about full power.Elizabeth Lacey, Lacey and Co principal.
"Physical distancing doesn't stop sexual discrimination when conduct is about full power," Ms Lacey said.
"If the perpetrator of the conduct has the tools, and they can access them online, the behaviour can continue."
Ms Lacey said employers never had a greater responsibility than now to better understand the pressures on their workers at home.
In June, the New South Wales Supreme Court ruled an employer could be held responsible for family violence when staff work from home.
Ballarat police found a 30 per cent rise in family violence reports in the two months to June.
Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee chairman Libby Jewson also flagged agency preparations for a rise in family violence as the region first entered lockdowns.
Ms Lacey said people had long championed flexible working but there were risks and this was heightened in the pandemic.
She said conditions also made it harder for staff to pick up on nuances in colleagues from behind a screen.
"It's tough to read the room online," Ms Lacey said. "It's not as simple as when you get a coffee and have a chat with a colleague."
- The national family violence counselling service is 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
- If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support: Lifeline 13 11 14.
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