What is a sexual harassment policy?

This page was last updated on: 2021-11-28

A sexual harassment policy is a policy that is focused on the prevention and management of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is the responsibility of the employer to put a sexual harassment policy into place. It can form part of the general employee handbook. It can also be written in partnership with employees and trade unions. Some employers incorporate information on sexual harassment into a general workplace harassment policy which covers other forms of unlawful harassment (such as harassment on the grounds of race, disability, sexual preference or age). Others decide there is a need for a stand-alone sexual harassment policy, particularly if sexual harassment is a common problem within the workplace. Both options are valid.

If your workplace does not have a sexual harassment policy, you should petition for one. You should get the support of your trade union or HR department for this. The workplace violence policy should be consulted whenever there are concerns about violence in the workplace.

The policy should be translated into relevant community languages where required so, it is accessible to employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. It should be periodically reviewed to ensure it is operating effectively and contains up-to-date information.

A sexual harassment policy should include:

  • A definition of sexual harassment
  • Examples of sexual harassment
  • What sexual harassment is not
  • The circumstances where it can occur
  • The consequences if it happens
  • How to report and follow through
  • The responsibilities of management and staff
  • Information where individuals can get help
  • A zero-tolerance message
  • An outline of the organisation’s objectives regarding sexual harassment.

What is an example of a sexual harassment policy?

Below is a very basic example of a sexual harassment policy, which could be adapted for a specific workplace.

The management of ___ (insert company name) is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. (The workplace could list their objectives regarding workplace sexual harassment here).

Workplace harassment will not be tolerated from any person in the workplace (The workplace could list the sources of sexual harassment). Everyone in the workplace must be dedicated to preventing sexual harassment. Managers, supervisors, and workers are expected to uphold this policy, and will be held accountable by the employer (If the policy applies to other people in the workplace, they could also be listed).

Workplace harassment includes unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment. (The workplace could list examples of unacceptable behaviour).

This policy is not intended to limit or constrain the reasonable exercise of management functions in the workplace (The workplace could include examples of work functions that would generally not be considered sexual harassment).

Workers are encouraged to report any incidents of sexual harassment (The workplace could provide more information about how to report incidents and could emphasise there will be no negative consequences for reports made).

Management will investigate and deal with all concerns, complaints, or incidents of sexual harassment in a fair and timely manner while respecting workers’ privacy as much as possible (The workplace could provide more information about how incidents of harassment will be investigated and/or dealt with).

A worker also retains the right to exercise any other legal avenues that may be available.

Signed: ______ Employer / CEO


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