WorkSafe Tasmania

WorkSafe Tasmania

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Notify WorkSafe Call 1300 366 322

Sexual harassment

Workplace sexual harassment is a known cause of psychological and physical harm.

PCBU responsibilities

If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must manage the hazards associated with health and safety risks of workplace sexual harassment. This includes sexual harassment between workers and from other people at the workplace like customers and clients.

Sexual harassment is now recognised as a systemic risk, with industry, environmental and individual risk factors present in every workplace.

To identify the potential for sexual harassment, you must gather information about the hazards in your workplace and assess the associated risk.

Safe Work Australia's guide Preventing workplace sexual harassment (external link) has detailed information on identifying the potential for sexual harassment in your workplace, and ways you can prevent it from happening.

Workplace policies

As the PCBU, it's your responsibility to set the behaviour standards that provide a safe workplace for all workers.

Your workplace should foster a healthy and respectful work culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated. All levels of workers need to model and enforce acceptable behaviour standards, including the PCBU, managers and supervisors.

A workplace policy can help set clear expectations about behaviours at the workplace and during work-related activities, and provide important information for workers, supervisors and managers.

What sexual harassment looks like

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in circumstances where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would anticipate the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment can include:

  • unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing
  • inappropriate staring or leering
  • suggestive comments or jokes
  • using suggestive or sexualised nicknames for co-workers
  • sexually explicit pictures, posters or gifts
  • circulating sexually explicit material
  • persistent unwanted invitations to go out on dates
  • requests or pressure for sex
  • intrusive questions or comments about a person's private life or body
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • insults or taunts based on sex
  • sexual gestures or indecent exposure
  • following, watching or loitering nearby another person
  • sexually explicit or indecent physical contact
  • sexually explicit or indecent emails, phone calls, text messages or online interactions
  • repeated or inappropriate advances online
  • threatening to share intimate images or film without consent
  • actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.

Some forms of sexual harassment are also criminal offences and should be reported to the police.

Sexual harassment is not always obvious, repeated or continuous. Unlike bullying, which is characterised by repeated behaviour, sexual harassment can be a one-off incident.

Sexual harassment can also be a behaviour that while not directed at a particular person, affects someone who is exposed to it or witnesses it (such as overhearing a conversation or seeing sexually explicit posters in the workplace).

Who is affected by sexual harassment

Women are significantly more likely to experience sexual harassment than men. Other factors which increase the likelihood of a worker experiencing sexual harassment include:

  • workers under 30 years of age
  • workers who identify as LGBTIQA+
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander workers
  • workers with a disability
  • workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • migrant workers or workers holding temporary visas, and
  • people in insecure working arrangements (casual, labour hire or part-time work).

Resources

Workplace sexual harassment guides and information: Safe Work Australia (external link)

Preventing workplace sexual harassment: Safe Work Australia (external link)

Updated: 5th February 2021