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Managing Gendered Violence a safety necessity

Thankfully we are in an era where mental health is beginning to be accepted and people in the workplace are beginning to take note and identify mental health as a ‘real’ issue for many people. Even to the point where, RTO’s are providing ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training to employees in the workplace.

Unfortunately, there is another issue that is on the rise, as the number of people that have been brave enough to speak their truth. I am talking about sexual harassment.

Under the OHS Act, employers must "provide and maintain a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable". Employees include independent contractors and any employees of the independent contractor.

Employers must consult with health and safety representatives (HSRs) and their employees about health and safety issues that may directly affect them. Consultation about gendered violence must occur when,

  • Identifying or assessing hazards or risks in the workplace

  • Making decisions about measures to be taken to prevent and manage gendered violence risks

  • Making decisions about procedures to resolve health or safety issues

  • Making decisions about procedures to monitor employee health

  • Making decisions about information and training on work-related gendered violence

  • Proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of employees.

Currently, there is a lack of awareness in many workplaces, as mental health awareness once was. It is sometimes hard to see the effects of gendered violence. But the thing is, it can have devastating effects on individuals that experience this violence. Some of the effects can include:

  • Depression

  • Isolation

  • Anxiety

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Suicide

This can happen to anyone, from Management to Worker Level. The individual affected and the person trying to deal with the situation should not be expected to be equipped to deal with this type of violence themselves. Unfortunately, frequently the blame is placed on the victim or ‘swept under the carpet’ as organisations or mangement do not know how to deal with these sensitive situations or fear reputation damage.

What does gender violence look like? Some examples include:

  • An employee makes unwanted sexual advances to another employee.

  • A senior manager uses their power to suggest sexual favours.

  • A person uses offensive sexual language with another person.

  • An employer questions or makes negative comments about an employee’s sexual orientation or the way they look.

  • Pornographic posters on the wall in a warehouse makes the other people feel uncomfortable when entering the warehouse.

  • People make disparaging jokes about LGBTQIA+ relationships in the staffroom, making a colleague at a neighboring table feel threatened or excluded.

  • A pub owner tells their employees they have to wear short clothes to look sexy for the patrons.

  • An employee receives unwanted sexually explicit texts from another employee, client, contractor during or after hours.

  • A transgender individual overhears coworkers complaining about them using the male/female toilets.

  • A person is sexually assaulted by a client in a health care facility.

  • An employee, client, or contractor is being followed home or to the workplace.

Everyone has the right to feel safe in a workplace. There are many ways a workplace can ensure a gendered violence-free environment, some of the ways include:

  • Take any complaint seriously

  • Thoroughly and sensitively investigate all complaints

  • Ensure there is a nongendered violence culture

  • Develop robust policies and procedures that everyone can read and understand

  • Consult with everyone in the workplace, gain feedback as to how individuals feel in the workplace

  • Communicate the importance of a nongendered violence culture

If you or know anyone that may have experienced gendered violence, bullying, or any kind of harassment, speak up, protect them, yourself, and others who may be vulnerable. Predators don’t stop until they are stopped, you can make a difference in your and others' lives. Everyone deserves a risk-free workplace.

For more information contact: Go to WorkSafe ( Our Watch ( Our Watch ( Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Victoria Police Lifeline ( Sources Australian Human Rights Commission, Everyone’s business: fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, 2018 International Labor Office (ILO), Background paper for discussion at the meeting of experts on violence against men and women in the world of work (3–6 October 2016) Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC), Stop gendered violence at work: women’s rights at work report, 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Personal Safety, Australia, 2016, ABS cat. no. 4906.0, 2017

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