TO: All staff

Recent allegations highlighted in the media about inappropriate workplace behaviours, sexual harassment and generally poor workplace cultures has caused us to pause and think about how our organisation is positioned to prevent our people from being exposed to these unsafe behaviours.

We cannot assume that our organisation is immune to poor behaviour. Harassment in its many forms, including sexual harassment, can happen to anyone. It’s far more prevalent than some people think.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission:

  • Almost two in five women (39%) and just over one in four men (26%) have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years.
  • It is more likely to be experienced by younger people (those aged 18-29 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, people living with disability and those in the LGBTIAQ+ community.
  • In 2018, more than 1 in 3 people were bystanders to sexual harassment in the workplace, but only one-third took action in response.

(Source: Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces 2018)

Everyone has the right to feel safe at work. We are committed to providing a fair, equitable and respectful work environment that is free from all forms of bullying and harassment.     We expect you to respect those who you work with and for you to be respected.

We want to ensure we have a zero-tolerance culture where people feel safe to speak up without fear of retribution. 

TO: All staff

Recent allegations highlighted in the media about inappropriate workplace behaviours, sexual harassment and generally poor workplace cultures has caused us to pause and think about how our organisation is positioned to prevent our people from being exposed to these unsafe behaviours.

We cannot assume that our organisation is immune to poor behaviour. Harassment in its many forms, including sexual harassment, can happen to anyone. It’s far more prevalent than some people think.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission:

  • Almost two in five women (39%) and just over one in four men (26%) have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years.
  • It is more likely to be experienced by younger people (those aged 18-29 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, people living with disability and those in the LGBTIAQ+ community.
  • In 2018, more than 1 in 3 people were bystanders to sexual harassment in the workplace, but only one-third took action in response.

(Source: Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces 2018)

Everyone has the right to feel safe at work. We are committed to providing a fair, equitable and respectful work environment that is free from all forms of bullying and harassment. We expect you to respect those who you work with and for you to be respected.

We want to ensure we have a zero-tolerance culture where people feel safe to speak up without fear of retribution. 

If you experience harassment, whether it happens to you or you witness it happening to someone else, we want you to feel safe and comfortable to raise these concerns with us. They will be taken seriously, acted upon confidentially, and you will be supported and protected.

Please be assured that we will take a human-centric approach when investigating these matters and that appropriate action will be taken to address the matter.

What to do if you need to report an instance of sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work:

  • Report any incidents you experience or witness to your manager or HR. You can also contact our external whistleblower service [add details of this service here].
  • If you’re reporting a personal incident, understand that while sooner is better in terms of investigating the matter, you can come forward at any time you feel comfortable.
  • Refer to our Grievance Resolution Standard. [Insert name of your organisation’s policy/standard and link through to it].
  • Utilise our company employee assistance program for follow up support. [Share contact details for EAP]. The information you share in these sessions will remain confidential.

Our policies and standards relating to the workplace behaviours we hold ourselves accountable to are available for review here [Add link]. 

We will also be taking the time to review our policies and standards to ensure they remain current and reflect the environment we want to create. We will also roll out training on this important matter because respect at work is everyone’s business.

We expect you to think about how your conduct impacts others. All managers will be speaking with their teams in the week ahead to emphasise that we do not tolerate disrespectful conduct towards our colleagues. I suggest you read through our policies and feel free to ask your managers for clarification on any of the details. 

If we are going to succeed in creating safe workplaces where harassment is a thing of the past, we all need to work together and live our commitment to respect each other.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Kind regards,  

[name]

Chief Executive Officer

If you need support, please contact your EAP any time, or find below additional resources: 

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
https://www.lifeline.org.au/
www.1800respect.org.au/
https://mensline.org.au/

 

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.