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Psychosocial hazard #13 – Harassment including sexual harassment

by | Oct 24, 2023 | C1: Commitment, C2: Capability, C3: Competency, C4: Culture, Employee Engagement, EVP, inclusion and equity, Psychosocial hazards

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The thirteenth psychosocial hazard that is listed in Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice on Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work is “harassment including sexual harassment”.

Why is harassment including sexual harassment a psychosocial hazard?

This hazard involves any of the following elements:

  • Harassment due to personal characteristics such as age, disability, race, nationality, religion, political affiliation, sex, relationship status, family or carer responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status;
  • Sexual harassment – 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 of the circumstances, would anticipate the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated;
  • Harmful behaviour that does not amount to bullying (such as single instances) but creates a risk to health and safety.

Some questions that you might ask to assess whether there are any psychosocial hazards related to harassment including sexual harassment in your workplace include:

  • Is inappropriate behaviour like racially or sexually crude conversations, innuendo or offensive jokes part of the culture?
  • Do leaders lack understanding of the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment?
  • Are there imbalances along gendered lines where one gender holds the balance of management roles, decision-making power or worker representation positions?
  • Are there increased risks on occasions when alcohol is involved in work-related activities or when people are attending events or conferences as part of their work activities?
  • Are there people who are potentially vulnerable because they are working in isolated situations like in cars or at home or in remote locations with limited supervision or access to support?
  • Are there people who are potentially exposed to harassment because they are working in unpredictable environments like in the community or clients’ homes?
  • Do workers have exposure because they interact with customers or other people face-to-face, on the phone or online ?
  • Does the organisation lack a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity in policy or practice?

This list is not exhaustive and while we have based these posts on the model code produced by Safe Work Australia, there can be differences in the specific details for each State or Territory. So you need to check that in the jurisdiction in which your workplace lies.

Need help?

Give us a call on 1300 108 488 to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter.

Note: there are additional responsibilities on organisations to eliminate workplace sex discrimination and harassment under the  Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (Cth) which also confers inspection and prosecution powers on the Australian Human Rights Commission. Refer our previous blog: “Time to get serious about sexual harassment”



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