Essential resources to help workplaces tackle sexual harassment
Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act, it’s not enough for employers to just deal with sexual harassment complaints when they arise; they must also take proactive steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. To help employers fulfil this ‘positive duty’, the Commission has released a new guideline and an interactive online response tool focused on creating safer, more respectful workplaces.
12 August 2020
“The ‘positive duty’ is unique to Victoria, and it means that employers in this state need to combine both prevention and response measures in their approach to managing sexual harassment,” says Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton. “The new edition of our Guideline: Preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment, provides practical, easy-to-implement advice for employers to help them comply with their legal obligation to keep every employee safe from sexual harassment.”
For the first time, the guideline includes minimum standards to guide employers’ policies and practices. Together, these standards become a framework for preventing and responding to sexual harassment – a good understanding of sexual harassment and the law, an effective prevention plan, a respectful culture, risk management measures, effective reporting processes, and a strategy to monitor the organisation’s progress.
The guideline also includes a step-by-step guide for dealing with sexual harassment complaints, a risk matrix tool, and a gender equality framework to help them take action on the underlying issues that drive sexual harassment.
“We should not accept that sexual harassment is a part of so many working environments. We know about the jobs lost, the dignity breached, the safety undermined. Sexual harassment is a consequence of anachronistic power and gender imbalances, but the tolerance of it is because we have left it up to victims to try and speak up. These standards are about shifting that responsibility to employers. They prioritise knowledge, action and accountability,” says Commissioner Hilton.
The new edition of the guideline and its accompanying quick guide are paired with an innovative online Sexual harassment support and response tool. This free and confidential interactive chat tool guides employers, victim-survivors and bystanders through information about sexual harassment and their rights and responsibilities, if they encounter sexual harassment at work.
The guideline was launched with an online panel discussion, Equality Talks: Taking action on sexual harassment. During the event, a panel of experts – City of Monash CEO Dr Andi Diamond, journalist and author Jessie Tu, employment lawyer Josh Bornstein, and Indigenous workforce diversity expert Nareen Young – shared their unique perspectives on how employers can better prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
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