Use this wording with your Board, and with your Risk, WHS and Sustainability committees
1 Core obligations

Employers should specifically:

  • Reference sexual harassment as a work health and safety issue in relevant organisational charters
  • Note that sexual harassment is also unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act and State and Territory equal opportunity legislation. From 11 November 2021 a Stop Bullying order for sexual harassment can be sought under the Fair Work Act
  • Provide information to officers about their work health and safety obligations separately in training or in other communications with them

This template is provided for you to customise for your organisation.

Charter wording:
Board and Committees

Use this wording with your Board, and with your Risk, WHS and Sustainability committees

1 Core obligations

Employers should specifically:

  • Reference sexual harassment as a work health and safety issue in relevant organisational charters
  • Note that sexual harassment is also unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act and State and Territory equal opportunity legislation. From 11 November 2021 a Stop Bullying order for sexual harassment can be sought under the Fair Work Act
  • Provide information to officers about their work health and safety obligations separately in training or in other communications with them
2 What to focus on

The following steps should be taken by an organisation’s officers to satisfy due diligence obligations regarding sexual harassment:

  • Acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of issues relating to sexual harassment
  • Gain an understanding of the nature of the organisation’s operations and generally of the hazards and risks regarding sexual harassment in the business
  • Ensure that the organisation has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise sexual harassment risks
  • Ensure that the organisation has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents of sexual harassment, and the hazards and risks of sexual harassment and responding in a timely way to that information, including from bystanders
  • Ensure that the organisation has and implements processes for complying with its duties to eliminate or control the risk of sexual harassment
  • Monitor on an ongoing basis the provision, use and effectiveness of the resources and processes referred to above

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) recommends that directors:1

  • Set minimum expectations
  • Talk about sexual harassment often
  • Scrupulously model appropriate behaviour
  • Recruit the right leaders and hold them to account
  • Encourage reporting and ensure there is no backlash for doing so
  • Monitor regularly
  • Manage risks
  • Consider the board’s public position and approach to confidentiality
  • Ensure the organisation deals constructively with reports of sexual harassment
  • Ensure the organisation adequately resources work to prevent and address sexual harassment
  • Build a just, respectful and safe culture
  • Promote gender equality
3 Example charter wording

Work health and safety legislation requires our directors to exercise due diligence to ensure that we proactively identify and eliminate the risks of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.

[Specify the Board committees responsible for regularly addressing sexual harassment] must regularly address sexual harassment to ensure that we are taking a systematic approach to managing risk with the aim of eliminating the risk or, if this is not possible, minimising the risk as far as is reasonably practicable.

 
This document is intended to provide general guidance only. The contents should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in particular matters.

We need to set the tone and lead from the top. With this in mind, here is an example of some things we should never say or accept from others:

  • A bullying and harassment policy should be enough to deal with sexual harassment.
  • We have low report rates of sexual harassment, so it’s not a problem at this organisation.
  • We have a reporting hotline which is well publicised, but we don’t get many calls about sexual harassment, so it’s not an issue here.
  • I have been in this industry for decades and I have never seen it, so it mustn’t be happening.
  • That’s the remit of our HR team. If there was ever a big issue, they would escalate it to us.
  • Our staff engagement scores are terrific and there is no indication of there being a sexual harassment problem here. That means we’re doing enough.


Most cultural issues aren’t hiding in plain sight. Often it’s the things that aren’t being talked about that we need to be concerned about. Research tells us that sexual harassment is common and that it’s significantly under reported. We need to be proactive to prevent sexual harassment, and not wait for a complaint before we act.

We need to ensure our people feel safe to come forward and report instances of sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. The only way they’ll do this is if they can see that leadership takes this issue seriously.

Can I suggest we create a board paper for the next meeting to outline how we plan to do this?

We take the health and wellbeing of our people very seriously. We work hard to improve our safety outcomes and reduce injuries, and overall we do a good job preventing physical harm to our people.

As we have seen in many other organisations, sexual harassment is more prevalent than a lot of people think. This represents a real risk to keeping people safe in the workplace, and to our people’s wellbeing and productivity.

It can also cause significant damage to our reputation, our brand as an employer of choice, lost business, and to our corporate standing.

We need to make it crystal clear to everyone in the organisation that we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Our objective is to prevent it. We need to ensure all our systems, processes and practices enforce this commitment.

We need to treat sexual harassment risks as we would any other physical or psychological risk in the workplace. We already have existing systems and processes in place for identifying and mitigating workplace health and safety risks and hazards, and for defining our desired culture.

We need to embed these into our sexual harassment response frameworks, reporting practices and organisational culture so sexual harassment is eradicated.

We can’t afford to wait on this; we need to act urgently.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other conduct of a sexual nature. It’s not only a human rights issue, which is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act, but also a workplace health and safety (WHS) risk which can cause significant psychological, physical, reputational and financial harm.

Existing systems and processes for managing WHS risks and hazards should be used to eliminate the risks and control the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.

Board members and senior executives have a duty to address this. Everyone deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment. Respect is everyone’s business.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other conduct of a sexual nature. It’s not only a human rights issue, which is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act, but also a workplace health and safety (WHS) risk which can cause significant psychological, physical, reputational and financial harm.

Existing systems and processes for managing WHS risks and hazards should be used to eliminate the risks and control the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.

Board members and senior executives have a duty to address this. Everyone deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment. Respect is everyone’s business.