Workplace Sexual Harassment – HR, OSH or Both?

According to the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual conduct which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.

Sexual harassment does not need to be repeated or continuous.

It can involve a single incident and can occur during recruitment or employment.

It can take numerous forms and may include:

  • staring or leering at someone, or at parts of their body
  • suggestive comments or jokes
  • insults or taunts based on sex
  • sexually explicit pictures, e-mails or text messages

An employer owes a general duty of care to provide a safe system of work, to promote the safety and health of all persons at work, and to prevent, so far as is practicable, exposure to hazards in the workplace.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers may be held legally responsible for acts of sexual harassment committed by their employees, unless the employer has done everything that is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of the employees.

Employees also have obligations under the Act. If an allegation of sexual harassment is made, it is important for the employer to act quickly and appropriately.

The Act requires employers to:

  • investigate matters reported to them by employees
  • determine the action to be taken (if any); and
  • notify the employee who made the report of the action to be taken.

Need further advice about general workplace safety management? Contact CCI’s Safety and Risk Services Team today on 08 9365 7415 or [email protected]


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