Consultation in sex work

Consultation between employers, employees and independent contractors in the sex industry is essential. This guidance explains why consultation is important and when it is necessary. The guidance is for employers but may also benefit employees and independent contractors.


Employers must consult employees

The OHS Act places health and safety duties on employers and others. One duty requires employers to consult with employees about certain matters that affect them or are likely to affect them. As an employer, you must fulfil this duty so far as is reasonably practicable.

Under the OHS Act, your employees can include:

  • independent contractors you have engaged
  • employees of the independent contractors

Why consult?

Consulting employees is a requirement of the OHS Act. Involving your employees in health and safety issues can result in a safer workplace. You get input on hazards, risks and solutions from people who understand and do the work.

Being involved in making decisions can lead to a stronger commitment from employees. They can be more committed to carrying out those decisions. Talking about health and safety has benefits. It can build cooperation and trust between employers and employees.

When to consult

As an employer, you have to consult when doing any of the following:

  • Identifying or assessing hazards or risks.
  • Making decisions on how to control risks.
  • Making decisions about employee welfare facilities. For example, dining facilities, change rooms, toilets or first aid.
  • Deciding on procedures to:
    • resolve health and safety issues
    • consult with employees on health and safety
    • monitor employees' health and workplace conditions
    • provide information and training
  • Deciding the membership of any health and safety committee in the workplace.
  • Proposing changes to the following that may affect employees’ health or safety:
    • workplace
    • plant, substances or other things used in the workplace
    • conduct of work done at the workplace
  • Doing anything else set by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

Who to consult

You must consult with employees who are directly affected by any of the matters listed in the OHS Act. You must also consult with employees who are likely to be directly affected by those matters.

As well, you must consult with independent contractors and their employees.

Remember to include all affected employees. This includes, for example:

  • shift workers
  • employees with intellectual and physical disabilities
  • employees from different cultural and language backgrounds

You must consult so far as is reasonably practicable.

Your employees might have health and safety representatives, also known as HSRs. Consultation must involve HSRs, either with or without employees' direct involvement.

How to consult

Consultation gives employees the chance to shape health and safety at work. Telling employees you've made health and safety decisions and taken action isn't consultation.

You and your employees may have agreed procedures for consultation in your workplace. If you do, you must follow those procedures.

Share health and safety information

You must give your employees and any HSRs information about health and safety matters that affect them or are likely to affect them. Give them enough time to consider, discuss and then give their feedback.

If it is reasonably practicable, you must provide the information to HSRs a reasonable time before it is provided to employees.

Information should be in a form that employees and HSRs can easily understand. They may need information such as technical guidance about workplace hazards and risks. For example, information about equipment and substances. They may also need information about how work is organised. For example, systems, reports, procedures and guidance material.

Don't withhold information just because it is technical or may be hard to understand. Give your employees time to process the information and to seek advice.

Have a way to consult with employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Give employees a chance to have their say

Give employees and any HSRs the opportunity to have their say about health and safety matters. Encourage them to ask questions, raise concerns, suggest options and make recommendations. Make your employees part of the problem-solving process.

If there are HSRs, you must:

  • invite HSRs to meet with you to consult about the matter
  • meet with HSRs if they accept the invitation
  • meet with HSRs if they otherwise ask for a meeting
  • give HSRs a reasonable opportunity to express their views about the matter
  • take the HSRs' views into account

You may need more than one meeting.

Take employees' views into account

Before making a final decision, you should respond to employees' and HSRs' concerns and questions. You can tell them what options you considered, and how and why you arrived at the final decision.

Ways to consult

There are various appropriate ways to consult with employees about health and safety. You can use regular face-to-face discussions or meetings. You can also use meetings with designated work groups, also known as DWGs. You may need a teleconference if employees or HSRs work remotely.

If your workplace is small and there are no HSRs, meetings or face-to-face discussions may be the best way to consult.

A mix of arrangements may be appropriate, depending on the type of workplace.

Your workplace might have a DWG with elected HSRs. If so, the HSRs must be involved in consultation about health and safety matters than can affect employees.

Health and safety committees are another way to improve workplace health and safety. They are known as HSCs. HSCs bring together HSRs, employees and employer representatives. HSCs can improve and spread health and safety knowledge. They can do this through, for example:

  • discussions
  • development of policies and procedures
  • sharing of meeting minutes and reports

If an HSR requests an employer establish an HSC, the employer must establish the HSC within 3 months.

At least half of the members of an HSC must be employees. So far as practicable, the employees must be HSRs or deputy HSRs.

WorkSafe Advisory Service

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options

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