Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is widespread with one in three people having experienced it in the past five years. We all play a role in preventing workplace sexual harassment. How your business responds to reports of harassment is important.
Prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.
Prevent workplace sexual harassment through strong leadership, risk assessment and transparency, positive workplace culture and setting expected workplace behaviours.
Respond to sexual harassment by prioritising worker wellbeing and support, providing options to report, and collecting data to understand the prevalence, nature and impacts of workplace sexual harassment, and how best to address it.
Why this is important
Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is widespread with one in three people having experienced it in the past five years.
Most people who experience sexual harassment never report it. Like workers’ compensation stigma, there are fears of consequences to reputation, career prospects and relationships.
We all play a role in preventing workplace sexual harassment.
Employers have a positive duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment under the Respect at Work Bill 2022.
How your business responds to reports of harassment is important. It defines the experience of the victim and influences psychosocial safety climate (PSC). For example, high PSC has been shown to lead to decreased bullying and mental health problems as well as increased engagement.
What action can I take now?
Learn about the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Recognise that sexual harassment is both a human resources and safety issue and requires collaboration with your workers and a systems thinking approach to health, safety and wellbeing.
Take the first step to preventing sexual harassment by engaging with your workers to measure your workplace risks and understand what actions you need to take to create a mentally healthy workplace free from sexual harassment and stigma.
Identify the signs of sexual harassment and support those in need.
Respond to reports of harassment in a person-centred way. Failing to respond appropriately can add poor organisational justice as another psychosocial hazard.
Make sure your people leaders and rehabilitation and return to work coordinators have the right training, skills and confidence so that when they need to respond they have the capacity to be empathetic, come from a place of belief and are able to support the emotional needs of workers who have experienced sexual harassment.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission have released a suite of resources to educate and train workers, employers and leaders on the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Use the Get help resources for workers as part of your onboarding process and support staff to complete introductory eLearning courses to better understand workplace sexual harassment.
- Understand your legal obligations and the many legal frameworks that relate to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.
- Implement a sexual harassment policy and monitor its effectiveness in line with the WHS risk management process (identify hazards, assess and control risks).
- Refer to the Preventing workplace sexual harassment guidance document from Safe Work Australia to inform your workplace practices.
- The good practice indicators framework provides a range of indicators and measures that can be incorporated into your human resources and safety systems, based on your organisation’s size and maturity. The framework aims to create action for organisations to:
- develop and display strong leadership, which creates a culture of trust, respect and prevention
- shift from a reactive, complaints-based approach to one that is focused on prevention
- focus on identifying and assessing risk, measuring the effectiveness of initiatives and encouraging continuous improvement
- demonstrate a commitment to addressing sexual harassment and achieving positive change through workplace education and training
- prioritise worker wellbeing and support before, during and after an incident is reported
- address barriers to reporting by having multiple reporting options available.