Rio Tinto Review of Workplace Culture Shows Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Racism

Prevalence of bullying at Rio Tinto by gender (%
total of employees who have experienced at least
one of the behaviors).
On February 2, Rio Tinto published an external review of its workplace culture, carried out by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. The review identified disturbing findings of bullying, sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination throughout the company.

The eight-month study saw more than 10,000 people share their experiences, views and insights via an online survey, as well as through more than 100 group listening sessions, 85 confidential individual listening sessions and close to 140 individual written submissions.

The survey showed that in the last five years, bullying and sexism have been systemic across Rio Tinto worksites, with almost half of the people experiencing bullying. Sexual harassment at work was also an issue, with 28.2% of women and 6.7% of men experiencing it. Twenty-one women reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.

According to the survey results, racism is common across a number of areas, with the people working in a country different to their birth saying they experienced high rates of racism, and that 39.8% of men and 31.8% of women who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Australia experienced racism.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said the findings were “deeply disturbing.” “I feel shame and enormous regret to have learned the extent to which bullying, sexual harassment and racism are happening at Rio Tinto,” he said. “I am determined that by implementing appropriate actions to address the recommendations, and with the management team’s commitment to a safe, respectful and inclusive Rio Tinto in all areas, we will make positive and lasting change and strengthen our workplace culture for the long term.”

The report outlines 26 detailed recommendations to improve how the company prevents and responds to discrimination and unacceptable workplace behavior. Rio Tinto said it would focus on three key areas: A commitment from the company’s leadership to create safe, respectful and inclusive working environments to prevent harmful behaviors and better support people in vulnerable situations. This includes increasing diversity within the company. Also, ensuring the company’s camp and village facilities are safe and inclusive. This includes making sure the company is applying the same safety and risk processes that it uses to prevent harm in operations to create a safe environment for all employees and contractors.

It also plans to make it as easy and as safe as possible for all people to call out unacceptable behaviors, highlight issues when they happen and receive support. This includes introducing early intervention options and improving how the company responds to formal complaints in the workplace. The report also found there is strong appetite for cultural change within the company, including at senior leadership levels, and that there was a visible shift in attitudes and behavior over the last 12 months.

“This report is not a reason for reduced confidence in Rio Tinto,” Broderick said. “By proactively commissioning this study, one of the largest of its kind within the resources industry, it demonstrates a very clear commitment to increased transparency, accountability and action. The high levels of confidence among employees that a significant impact can be made in the next two years are an encouraging sign that change can happen.”

The full report can be viewed here: Sustainability/People/RT-Everyday- respect-report.pdf. The review is part of the work being undertaken by Rio Tinto’s Everyday Respect task force, which was launched in March 2021 to better understand, prevent and respond to harmful behaviors in the workplace.

As featured in Womp 2022 Vol 02 -