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Sexual Harassment

2021 Sexual Discrimination Reform


3 minutes read

Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The 2021-22 Australian Government Budget announcement committed to $9.3 million over four years to support the government’s response to the Respect@work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report and $6 million over four years to strengthen reporting on sexual harassment prevalence, prevention and response and funding for additional legal assistance for lawyers with workplace and discrimination law expertise.

Under new laws, an employee who has experienced bullying or sexual harassment could apply to the Western Australian Workplace Relations Commission (WAIRC) for a “Stop Order”. The commission decides if an order is to be issued to the main offender of the complaint to stop the behaviour. Individuals who don’t comply could be fined up to $13,000 while employers could be fined up to $65,000.

What is Sexual Harassment?

According to Fair Work Act, Sexual Harassment is:

  • An unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favours
  • Other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person A person could also be sexually harassed by being exposed to or witnessing this kind of behavior.

Examples of Sexual Harassment might include:

Staring or Leering, a suggestive comment or joke, a sexually explicit picture or poster, an unwanted invitation to go out on dates, a request for sex, intrusive questioning about a person’s private life or body, unnecessary familiarity such as deliberately brushing up against a person, an insult or a taunt of sexual nature, a sexually explicit email or text message.

Impact to the Business

According to a report from Deloitte Access Economics, workplace sexual harassment is estimated to impose 2.62 billion in lost productivity in 2018 on top of leaving a devastating and profound impact on individuals. The impact of sexual harassment to the business is damaging to both the financials, reputation and brand name. This stems from the business developing a negative work culture which results in low employee morale, discontented employees and high levels of absenteeism resulting in lower productivity and profits. Moreover, staff turnover will increase with the added strains of hiring and training new staff as well as expensive sexual harassment law suits costing the business significant amounts of money.

Legislated Business Support

Under the Fairwork Act, employees dealing with the impact of sexual harassment can apply to Fairwork Commission for a “stop order” or place a complaint with Australian Human Rights Commission.

Australian Human Rights Commission

1300656419 or 0292849888

Postal Address: GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001 Email:

Additional Business Support

The employer has a duty to manage the health and safety risks of workplace sexual harassment. This can be done by creating a safe physical and online working environment and providing information, training, instruction and support about the importance of preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Any unwanted or offensive behaviour should be addressed early. The organisation should have a procedure and policy in place that encourages reporting of sexual harassment and having an effective complaints procedure.

Small businesses may be eligible for free legal advice through Fairwork Commission’s Workplace Advice Service below :

Workplace Advice Service

Safework Australia

Resources regarding sexual harassment

General Support Services

Employees experiencing sexual harassment can seek counselling and support from the following providers:


1800 737 732 Australia’s national telephone and online counselling and referral service assisting people experiencing or who have experienced sexual assault or family and domestic violence.


Ph: 13 11 14 Website: 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention.


Ph: 1300 224 636 Website: Mental health support.

If you need assistance reviewing or implementing an educational and support framework for managing sexual harassment within your workplace, please contact us at Catalyst Central: