By Victoria Li
Sexual harassment has been a pervasive issue in Australian workplaces, affecting people from all aspects of work and life. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in three women and one in five men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at some point in their lives. Effective from 6 March 2023, with the aim to prohibit workplace sexual harassment, the Secure Jobs Better Pay Bill proposed several changes to the Fair Work Act. This includes the introduction of positive responsibilities of employers to prevent sexual harassment and other discriminations in connection with work.
The Bill introduced a broader definition of sexual harassment, which includes inappropriate physical contact, staring or leering, displaying or delivering sexually explicit material or messages, intrusive questioning about a person’s private life or body etc. While most people would think that workplace sexual harassment happens in the office, it can also happen through phone calls, internet communication and at other work-related events or functions with external persons (third-party sexual harassment).
Employers have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to protect their employees from such sexual harassment behaviors in different situations. To achieve this, employers are expected to:
- Implement policies and procedures that promote respectful and inclusive workplace culture from all levels of employees
- Introduce clear definitions of workplace sexual harassment
- Provide guidelines on how to identify/report/investigate sexual harassment.
These policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure they remain relevant and effective.
Providing relevant training to employees on sexual harassment is another signification responsibility of employers. The training should be delivered to all levels of employees within the business, including managers, supervisors, employees, contractors etc. With the training, all levels of employees should understand their rights and responsibilities and feel comfortable reporting any incidents of sexual harassment without fear of retaliation.
To ensure a healthy and safe work environment and to be proactive on any potential risk or hazard, employers are also encouraged to have a risk assessment for workplace sexual harassment. A proper risk assessment should include the following information:
- Identify the hazards/risks
- Identify the people at risk
- Assess the severity and likelihood of the hazards/risks
- Measures to control the risk
- Record and review
In conclusion, employers have a legal and moral responsibility to prohibit workplace sexual harassment in Australia. At Integrated Human Resourcing, we work closely with your business to understand your needs and to ensure ongoing business success. If you need assistance with establishing HR policies and procedures or conducting a risk assessment to promote a positive workplace culture free from harassment or discrimination, please contact us via email email@example.com or phone 07 5613 1846.