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National guides to prevent workplace sexual harassment released

Friday 05, Feb 2021

Safe Work Australia has released new guidance materials that provide support for businesses to help them prevent workplace sexual harassment, violence, aggression and domestic violence. Under Australia’s model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, employers must manage risks to health and safety arising from work, including both physical and mental health. The new guides provide information to anyone who has a WHS duty to protect the health and safety of workers.

Scope

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment, and the harm it causes. WHS duties require employers to do everything they reasonably can to prevent sexual harassment from occurring at work, just like other risks to health and safety. The new ‘Guide: Preventing workplace sexual harassment’ is designed to provide comprehensive support for businesses and organisations to meet their WHS duties, with practical steps to identify and manage the risk of violence and aggression in the workplace, including gendered violence.

The guide is supported by information sheets for small businesses and workers. The information sheet, ‘Family and domestic violence’, has been developed to provide guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking in managing the risk of family and domestic violence at the workplace. The information sheet also provides guidance on how businesses can help provide a safe environment for workers and where to find further advice.

Jurisdiction response

South Australia

The Executive Director of SafeWork SA, Martyn Campbell, said the new guides, which SafeWork SA has provided input on, reflect sexual harassment and assault as an emerging WHS risk. “There has been significant increase in discussions with a focus in recognising the responsibility of businesses to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault as an occupational hazard,” Campbell said. Campbell also noted that sexual harassment and gendered violence can occur in any workplace or industry, and urged employers and workers to take these incidents as seriously as other WHS risks.

Campbell added that managing the risks of sexual harassment and gendered violence should be part of a holistic approach to WHS. “The guides provide clear and helpful advice to workers and business in understanding how they can manage and control the risks associated with these types of incidents,” Campbell said. “I strongly encourage businesses and workers to read the new guides and understand how to best provide a safe working environment for everyone.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/littlewolf1989