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Recent Amendments to the ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice’ Brings Renewed Focus on Empowering Workers and Fostering a Culture of Respect 

01/02/2024by admin0Read: 5 minutes

The recent amendments to the ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice’ by Safe Work Australia bring a renewed focus on empowering workers and fostering a culture of respect. These changes underscore the importance of health and safety discussions, proactive risk management, and trauma-informed training to address sexual and gender-based harassment in the workplace.

Recent Amendments to Note

Released in December 2023, the recent amendments to the ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice’ focus on the following:

1) Empowering Workers:

A key highlight of the amendments is the empowerment of workers to refuse, restrict, or suspend service when individuals fail to comply with expected standards of behaviour. This shift places greater responsibility on individuals to uphold a respectful workplace environment.

2) Open Discussions on Health and Safety:

Managers and leaders are now encouraged to hold regular discussions about the importance of health and safety issues, with a specific emphasis on sexual and gender-based harassment. This proactive approach ensures that the entire organisation is engaged in creating a safer and more inclusive workplace.

3) Trauma-Informed Training:

The document places a significant emphasis on the importance of a trauma-informed approach to training. By avoiding explicit examples of sexual assault and incorporating content warnings where necessary, the training aims to create a supportive environment for all employees.

4) Understanding the Code of Practice:

The “Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice” serves as a comprehensive guide for organisations to manage and prevent harassment in the workplace. It delves into the nature of sexual and gender-based harassment, its potential impacts, and the need for a proactive risk management process.

5) Proactive Risk Management:

The amendments stress the involvement of all stakeholders, including workers, in a proactive risk management process. This approach ensures the identification, assessment, and control of risks associated with sexual and gender-based harassment, fostering a collective responsibility.

6) Intersectionality and Impact:

Recognising the intersectional nature of harassment, the Code of Practice acknowledges that the severity of harm increases when multiple forms of harassment and discrimination intersect. It provides a nuanced understanding of the psychological and physical impacts of such behaviour.

7) Control Measures and Reporting Mechanisms:

The document offers detailed recommendations for implementing control measures, including considerations for the design and layout of the workplace, environmental conditions, and systems of work. It also highlights the importance of establishing effective reporting mechanisms and addressing barriers to reporting.

What are some examples of systems of work that may increase the risk of sexual and gender-based harassment?

Some examples of systems of work that may increase the risk of sexual and gender-based harassment include:

1) Working Alone without Support:

Systems that require workers to work alone without the means to access support from other workers can increase the risk of harassment.

2) Use of Personal Phone Numbers or Social Media for Work Purposes:

When personal phone numbers or social media accounts are used for work purposes, it can create opportunities for harassment to occur outside of traditional work environments.

3) Lack of Policies to Prevent Excessive Consumption of Alcohol at Work Events:

Inadequate policies to prevent excessive consumption of alcohol at work events can lead to situations where workers may be more vulnerable to harassment.

4) High Level of Individual Authority and Discretion on a Supervisor or Manager:

Systems that confer a high level of individual authority and discretion on a supervisor or manager, such as allocation of overtime, promotion and training opportunities, or delivery of induction training, can create power imbalances and increase the risk of harassment.

These examples highlight how certain organisation rules, policies, procedures, and work practices used to organize, manage, and carry out work can contribute to an increased risk of sexual and gender-based harassment in the workplace. Organisations need to identify and address these systems of work to effectively control and minimise the risk of harassment.

How can the interaction of Psychosocial Hazards impact the Risk of Sexual and Gender-based Harassment?

In the intricate landscape of workplace challenges, the convergence of psychosocial factors significantly heightens the risk of sexual and gender-based harassment. This risk is further intensified when employees grapple with an array of challenges, spanning from demanding workloads to the complexities of remote work and instances of bullying. To effectively navigate this multifaceted landscape, organisations must adopt comprehensive risk management strategies. By proactively addressing broader psychosocial hazards and cultivating a positive workplace culture through well-defined behaviour standards and improved interpersonal dynamics, businesses can successfully mitigate the occurrence of sexual and gender-based harassment. Acknowledging the interconnected nature of workplace issues and implementing targeted control measures will not only minimise risks but also contribute to a workplace ethos that prioritizes employee well-being and cultivates a conducive environment for sustained productivity.

How can the risk of Sexual and Gender-based Harassment be Controlled in the Workplace?

To control the risk of Sexual and Gender-Based (SGB) harassment in the workplace effectively, a multi-faceted approach is necessary. The following strategies are outlined in the provided document:

1) Elimination of Risk:

The preferred approach is to eliminate the risk by not introducing it in the first place, such as avoiding tasks or systems that could lead to SGB harassment.

2) Work Design and Layout:

Well-designed systems of work, including the layout of the workplace and the use of technology, can minimise the risk of SGB harassment. For example, providing bar service instead of table service to reduce interactions that could lead to harassment.

3) Environmental Conditions:

Creating a safe and respectful physical environment is crucial. This includes ensuring visibility in break areas, providing effective communication systems for lone workers, and equipping vehicles with distress signalling devices.

Assess the physical work environment to identify areas with greater risks, such as limited natural surveillance, inadequate lighting, areas that restrict movement, or areas that may make workers uncomfortable. Addressing these factors can help minimise the risk of harassment.

4) Policies and Training:

Develop comprehensive policies in consultation with workers and provide training to all employees, including managers, to understand SGB harassment and the organisation’s stance against it.

5) Remote Work Considerations:

When work is conducted away from the usual workplace, select venues with appropriate facilities, ensure safe technology use, and consult, cooperate, and coordinate with other duty holders to identify and manage risks.

6) Supervision and Support:

Ensure ongoing supervision and support, especially for new, young, and inexperienced workers. Provide multiple avenues for reporting and seeking assistance.

7) Scheduling and Allocation:

Schedule breaks to reduce isolation and ensure that work allocation systems are transparent and fair to prevent favouritism or coercion.

8) Partnership with Workers:

Consult with workers and their representatives throughout the risk management process to identify hazards and effective control measures tailored to the specific workplace.

9) Control Measures:

Implement a range of control measures, including administrative controls (e.g. clear reporting procedures), engineering controls (e.g., CCTV), and personal protective equipment (PPE) where appropriate.

10) Reporting and Response:

Establish clear and accessible reporting mechanisms and train managers to respond appropriately to reports of SGB harassment, including providing immediate assistance to affected workers.

11) Prevention of Online Harassment:

Develop strategies to manage online SGB harassment, such as setting clear standards for online behaviour and encouraging the reporting of inappropriate online conduct.

12) Culture and Behaviours:

Foster a positive and inclusive workplace culture that does not tolerate SGB harassment or other harmful behaviours. Address gender inequality and power imbalance to minimise risks.

13) Leadership and Communication:

Encourage open discussions about SGB harassment and ensure that managers and leaders regularly communicate the importance of health, safety, and respectful behaviour.

14) Access to Assistance:

Provide support services for workers who experience SGB harassment and ensure that they know how to access these services.

15) Regular Review:

Regularly review and update risk assessments, policies, and training to ensure they remain effective and relevant to the changing workplace.

By implementing these strategies, organisations can create a workplace culture that not only minimises the risk of S GB harassment but also promotes a safe and respectful environment for all workers.

Thus, the recent amendments to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice signify a paradigm shift towards a more empowered and respectful workplace. This comprehensive approach not only ensures compliance with regulations but also contributes to a positive and inclusive workplace culture.

Anitech can help organisations comply with the recent amendments to the ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Code of Practice’. Our team can also help your organisation with training programs to prevent psychosocial hazards and help promote a safe workplace culture.

Call us today for assistance at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com

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