Everyone has the right to be safe and free from sexual harassment while at work. Likewise, everyone has a role to play in preventing workplace sexual harassment. Unfortunately, workplace sexual harassment is an all too common occurrence with one in three people experiencing sexual harassment in the past 5 years.

In consideration of these statistics, the different legal responsibilities for different people in the workplace, and the new Respect@Work framework, a more holistic approach is necessary to combat workplace sexual harassment; one that looks beyond policies, training, and complaint-handling procedures.

This approach recognises that sexual harassment is primarily driven by gender inequality and power imbalance and looks at all the steps that can be taken within workplaces to better prevent and respond to it. It more effectively meets an employer’s positive obligation to provide a safe, harassment-free workplace.

Preventing workplace sexual harassment with a holistic approach

There is no escaping that fact that sexual harassment can be a complex and difficult subject to approach. Which makes it a real challenge for leaders and workers who commit to understanding and preventing sexual harassment.

Traditional approaches to sexual harassment and training, such as one-off compliance training modules or induction courses, do not work as they are, typically, stand-alone training events that are easily forgotten and often focused on response processes rather than prevention.

Education around workplace sexual harassment should be part of a broader ongoing training strategy and should involve a combination of different types of learning, both formal and informal. This helps to embed learning and normalise discussions around preventing it, including:

  • Being part of a broader organisational commitment to gender equality, inclusion, respect, safety, and culture change.
  • Focusing on supporting and motivating workers to change attitudes and behaviours.
  • Delivery through a combination of formal and informal learning which aim to embed policy and normalise discussion about preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Ensuring all employees have the relevant information, training, and instruction to carry out any control measures the business is implementing to address workplace sexual harassment and how to report incidents or raise safety issues.
  • Using innovative, engaging, and interactive content tailored for different audiences with different needs, experiences, vulnerabilities, and responsibilities.
  • Accommodating appropriate modes of accessibility and delivery for all people including differing ability levels.
  • Being evidence based and regularly reviewed, evaluated, and improved to ensure it remains effective.

How can Cornerstone help your business?

Formal learning remains a key element of sexual harassment education. Cornerstone’s Respect@Work training focuses on developing behavioural skills and new ways of thinking and acting, and providing knowledge to support those skills for all employees. Immersive and encouraging active participation, the training offers space for debate, discussion and exploration of resistance, and reflection.

It addresses the complex links with principles of safety, trust, and respect, and why creating a safe, inclusive, and respectful culture should be a priority for all businesses. We also understand the benefits of targeted education and can tailor our training to address the special responsibilities, needs, or experiences of employees at all levels including:

Boards – All directors should be educated on the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and accompanying issues relating to gender, safety, and trauma. The education should be trauma informed, people centred and targeted at building skills on best practice governance to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace.

In addition, it is considered beneficial if a Board has at least one member with sophisticated and specialist skills, knowledge and experience on gender and workplace culture issues and/or effective prevention and management of sexual harassment. Those who are officers under WHS laws should have training on their duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the organisation is meeting its duty to manage the risk of sexual harassment

Senior leaders and executive management teams – Senior leaders and executive management teams should be educated on sexual harassment, gender, safety, trauma, and good governance to develop their knowledge and understanding so they can provide adequate oversight on sexual harassment and exercise sound judgement and decision making regarding sexual harassment matters.

Senior leaders or executive management team members with specialist responsibilities, such as Human Resources executives, should undergo additional education that builds their skills and knowledge regarding the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment and steps to address it in accordance with the Respect@Work framework. Those who are officers under WHS laws should have training on their duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the organisation is meeting its duty to manage the risk of sexual harassment.

People leaders – People leaders are often the first contact and/or primary support for a worker who has been sexually harassed. They also play a critical role in role modelling behaviours, reinforcing expectations, calling out poor behaviours and normalising discussions about sexual harassment. Specific training should be provided to equip leaders with the expertise to effectively carry out those responsibilities, including having open discussions about sexual harassment.

New starters – Onboarding and induction into the business must include appropriate sexual harassment education, and highlight that induction is only the beginning of that education.

If you want to empower your team to prevent workplace sexual harassment in your business, get in touch now for an obligation free chat – we can help! Find our articles helpful? Remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to keep up to date with our practical tips and information for business owners and managers.