1 Core obligations

Boards have a duty to eliminate, or minimise so far as is reasonably practicable, the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace under the Sex Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act.1

2 What to focus on

Board members should consider asking for regular reporting such as the measures listed below and in our example Reporting dashboards, which can be downloaded from the ‘Policy, processes and reporting’ section of the Respect Toolkit.

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

Board reporting

1 Core obligations

Boards have a duty to eliminate, or minimise so far as is reasonably practicable, the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace under the Sex Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act.1

2 What to focus on

Board members should consider asking for regular reporting such as the measures listed below and in our example Reporting dashboards, which can be downloaded from the ‘Policy, processes and reporting’ section of the Respect Toolkit.

Prevention: measuring and monitoring

  • Sexual harassment training: frequency and results (if assessed), mandatory training completion rates, what happens if training not completed
  • Workforce demographics: diversity targets, strategy for meeting targets and progress against targets, diversity information per seniority level
  • CEO/leadership statements: frequency and effectiveness with which leaders articulate the importance of gender equality and eradication of sexual harassment, set targets and report

Complaints handling

  • Number and nature of complaints: seniority and business/work unit of employees involved, direct complaint or whistleblower, internal or external investigation, claim substantiated or not, form of resolution, days to resolution
  • Outcomes for complainants, witnesses and bystanders: tenure in organisation/career progression, are there any separation pay outs or NDAs
  • Other reports of unacceptable behaviour: what intervention took place to resolve issue prior to formal complaint
  • Case-studies: providing insight into how matters have been handled by the organisation

Safe culture: monitoring

  • Survey feedback: staff responses to culture questions in engagement surveys and/or regular pulse checks (to understand employee sentiment and whether people feel safe to raise concerns)
  • Exit feedback: does it suggest areas of the business are higher risk? Is there scope for confidential or anonymous feedback?
  • Turnover: by gender, voluntary and non-voluntary
  • Remuneration strategy: link to culture (i.e. commissions and incentives linked to behaviours, not just financial strategies)
  • Outcome of WHS risk reviews: is the risk of sexual harassment included in standard risk assessments (for example is there supervision/leadership when alcohol is provided at events, are safety walkarounds conducted from a female perspective)?
  • Internal audit: is an internal audit function required to assess effectiveness of various processes outlined above, including the accuracy of information provided to the Board?
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 have developed example dashboards to assist you in developing Board reports.

1  See Safe Work Australia’s National Guidance Material, “Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassmentat pages 8-9.

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.