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Preventing sexual and gender-based harassment in the workplace

All employers have a legal obligation to proactively work to eliminate or minimise the risk of sexual and gender based harassment from occurring at work, so far as reasonably practical.

Every employer has a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination

Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act in December 2022 saw a positive duty introduced, requiring employers to not just respond to sexual harassment and discrimination but proactively work to prevent it from occurring.


The release of the Safe Work Australia, Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice in December 2023 provides a practical guide for employers on how to eliminate or minimise risks and hazards work and fulfil their duty.

What constitutes sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination?

Under the WHS Safety Act, sexual and gender-based harassment are behaviours or actions that cause physical and/or psychological harm to someone it is directed to or someone who witnesses it. This means it extends to discriminatory behaviour and comments or actions that may not be directed at a particular individual or intended to offend or upset.

Sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination...

Takes a variety of forms

Occurs anywhere that work is done

Can come from a range of sources

  • Sexual, sex- or gender-based harassment and discrimination

  • Hostile working environments

  • Gendered violence

  • In the workplace

  • While working remotely

  • At work-related functions or activities

  • Virtually or online

  • Outside of the workplace, including places where an employee is likely or required to go, like accommodation and clients' or suppliers’ sites

  • Other employees, supervisors and managers

  • People you share a workplace or building with, or who frequent your place of work

  • Customers, clients, patients, students, suppliers, visitors and others an employee comes into contact with as part of their work


Meeting your duty to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination

To fulfil your duty to provide a safe work environment and proactively work to eliminate or minimise risks to the psychological wellbeing of your people, you should take a similar risk management approach to sexual and gender-based harassment risks, as you do other risks to employees physical safety.


That means incorporating it within existing Safety Management Systems and taking a cyclical approach, that involves actively consulting with employees and stakeholders to:
  • Identify reasonably foreseeable risks and hazards

  • Assess risks and hazards

  • Implement control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk or hazard, so far as reasonably practical

  • Maintain and review control measures.


For more detailed information and guidance on fulfilling your duty and obligations as an employer, see:



Support, advice and guidance

As specialist workplace risk management consultants our experienced Safety Management Consultants are well placed to assist you in reviewing and optimising your Safety Management systems to ensure you meet your duty of care, protect your people and power your business.
For more information call us on 03 9863 8408 or email



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