Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Employees talking to manager

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Update March 2023

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that can have a negative impact on businesses and employees. Recently, Industrial Relations reform through the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act, has now prohibited (banned) sexual harassment in the workplace.

What Does This Mean for Businesses and Employees?

The key changes include:

  • New obligations on employers to implement steps to actively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Ability for a person or company to be liable for sexual harassment conducted by an employee or agent in connection with work, unless they can prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment
  • Greater powers to deal with workplace sexual harassment provided to The Fair Work Commission. These additional powers, in addition to its existing ‘stop sexual harassment order’ powers, include the ability to deal with disputes about sexual harassment through conciliation, mediation, through to dealing with disputes by arbitration that can result in an order for compensation or reasonable actions to remedy any loss or damage suffered by an individual

Understanding your responsibilities in relation to the prevention of sexual harassment and having a strategy to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual harassment is fundamental for all businesses.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature which makes a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended. It can take many forms, including verbal, non-verbal, and physical behaviour. 

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to; unwanted sexual advances, sexually explicit comments or gestures, sexual jokes or innuendo, the display of offensive material, unwanted physical contact and sexual assault. It can be a one-off incident or a pattern of behaviour.

The Impact of Sexual Harassment on Employees

Sexual harassment can have a significant impact on employees’ mental and physical health. It can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. It can also lead to physical health problems such as headaches, stomach problems, and sleep disturbances.

Sexual harassment can also negatively impact employees’ work performance, leading to absenteeism, low productivity, and employee turnover.

The Impact of Sexual Harassment on the Company

Sexual harassment can also have a negative impact on the company as a whole. It can damage the company’s reputation, lead to legal action, and result in financial costs such as legal fees, settlements, and damages. It can also lead to a decrease in employee morale, trust in leadership, and engagement, which can negatively impact the performance and culture of the organisation.

Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As a business owner or manager, there is a responsibility to ensure that your business has a strong foundation in place to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and support employees who may have been impacted by sexual harassment.

Some of the steps you can implement to prevent sexual harassment include: 

  • Developing and implementing a robust sexual harassment policy 
  • Training employees on prevention and reporting sexual harassment 
  • Encouraging employees to report incidents of sexual harassment 
  • Ensuring all reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously, treated sensitively and remain confidential
  • Provide appropriate and effective support to employees who have experienced sexual harassment

Need Support?

If you would like external guidance on sexual harassment policies and procedures, additional strategies you can implement to actively support prevention of sexual harassment within your organisation, or advice around a specific incident, you can consult one of our HR specialists. 

Our trusted HR Specialists can:

  • Tailor our newly updated sexual harassment policy template, based on current best practice to the requirements of your individual business
  • Train your team to ensure all managers and employees understand what sexual harassment is, what steps can be implemented to actively support the prevention of sexual harassment and how it will be managed to reduce your risk
  • Listen to your concerns and discuss your options, to understand where you can get support and the different ways The Engaged Space could help you understand and resolve any current issues
  • Manage an independent workplace investigation to ensure a procedurally fair complaints management process

The Engaged Space will partner with you to create a safe and respectful workplace by taking a proactive approach to preventing sexual harassment.

For more information and to keep up to date with updates as they happen, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Our team is here to help you navigate through these changes and provide guidance around the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace! Reach out if you need advice on reviewing current workplace policy & procedures to reflect the new changes.

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