The What and the Where – Some Short facts about Sexual Harassment law in Australia

Key Points
  • Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women and is unlawful in Australia under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
  • Confusion about what legally constitutes workplace sexual harassment under Australian law continues.
  • The law can be complex, and understanding some of the key principles can assist in avoiding unintentional issues.
Modern businesses reject the notion that sexual harassment in the workplace is acceptable. However, confusion about what legally constitutes workplace sexual harassment under Australian law continues and might inadvertently lead to inappropriate behaviour, resulting in claims against employers and individuals.

The law can be complex, and understanding some of the key principles can assist in avoiding unintentional issues.

Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women and is unlawful in Australia under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Sexual harassment is defined in Section 28A of the Act as unwanted, unwelcome sexual behaviour which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. The offending behaviour is not mutual, is not a consensual interaction and does not constitute friendship.

Section 28B of the Act refers to employment situations and provides that it is unlawful to sexually harass:
  •  an employee or a person seeking to become an employee (employer to employee);
  • for employees to harass other employees; and
  • for employers to harass a commission agent or contract worker.
The Act prohibits the offending behavior in the workplace which, as we are often reminded in the lead up to the Festive Season and other major celebrations, includes a place where workplace functions are carried out in connection with being an employee.

Although these may appear to be straightforward principles to follow, the law continues to be breached and claims continue to be reported.

In response, businesses and service providers should strongly consider developing, reviewing and supporting the implementation of clear, plain English and best practice policies and codes of conduct to appropriately mitigate the risk of inappropriate behaviour which might be considered sexual harassment.

Hicksons Partner, Jennifer Parkes, specialises in advising and supporting business and service organisations, including in the Public Sector, to develop, review, implement and defend best practice policies and procedures.

Post by Jennifer Parkes
 

Most Popular Articles

Blog

Service of Notices by Registered Post

Where service of a notice is authorised or required by post, unless the contrary intention appears, service will be deemed to be effected at the time when the notice would be delivered in the ordinary course of post: see the various Acts Interpretation acts of the States and Commonwealth.
Blog

Abandonment of employment – some best practice tips

We are regularly asked to advise employers in relation to whether certain circumstances amount to abandonment of employment and, if so, what are the employer’s rights and obligations.
Blog

Medical manslaughter - The Australian Experience

Medical manslaughter has come into the spotlight in the last week following the recent decision in England to deregister a medical practitioner after she was found guilty of manslaughter in 2015.

Subscribe to Our Blog

Keeping you connected, Hicksons regularly publishes articles to keep you up to date on the latest developments. To receive these updates via email, please subscribe below and indicate which areas of law you would like to receive information on.

Top