An introduction to WorkSafe's health and safety guidance for the sex work industry.
Decriminalisation of sex work
Decriminalisation is the removal of criminal penalties from certain activities. The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 decriminalises sex work between consenting adults. It also ends the sex work licensing system.
Decriminalisation helps ensure sex work is safe work. It maximises sex workers’ safety, health and human rights. Decriminalisation reduces stigma and discrimination against sex workers. It also improves sex workers' access to health, justice and other essential services.
Decriminalisation recognises that sex work is real work. It should be regulated through existing laws, like all other industries in the state.
Criminal offences to protect children and employees remain. State and federal agencies continue to enforce non-consensual sex work and related crimes.
Occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety involves protecting the health, safety and welfare of employees and other people. It's commonly called OHS.
If you work in the sex industry you have the right to be safe at work. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 is a law that helps keep you safe. It's known as the OHS Act. The OHS Act also helps keep clients, contractors, suppliers and other people safe. It does this by setting rules to identify hazards and control risks. A hazard is something that can cause harm. A risk is the chance of a hazard causing harm. Harm includes injury, illness or death.
The OHS Act applies to the sex work industry in the same way as any other industry. All employers and employees have OHS rights, duties and protections. Other people also have duties. For example, self-employed people and people with management or control of a workplace.
WorkSafe is Victoria's OHS regulator. It is also the workplace injury insurer, including for the sex industry.
Health and safety inspectors are the public face of WorkSafe. WorkSafe inspectors have a leading role in the organisation. Their primary role is to ensure employers and other duty holders comply with health and safety legislation.
Inspections are just one tool that WorkSafe uses to improve workplace safety. Other tools and actions include:
compliance measures, including improvement and prohibition notices and directions
Guidance is another tool to help improve workplace health and safety. WorkSafe guidance for the sex industry includes the following:
Different authorities help ensure the sex work industry complies with OHS laws, public health laws and other laws. Those authorities include:
From 1 December 2023, the sex work service provider licensing system will end. Local municipal councils will be the first point of contact for business owners seeking a permit to operate. Going forward, Consumer Affairs Victoria can provide information for the sex work industry, including an overview of changes to the regulations governing sex work and useful factsheets for the industry.
Liquor Control Victoria is part of the Department of Justice and Community Safety. It delivers licensing, investigative, disciplinary and other regulatory functions under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 and regulations relating to the supply and consumption of liquor in Victoria. It can provide information to business owners seeking liquor licences for their premises.
Local government takes primary responsibility for where and how sex work businesses operate through planning provisions. State planning overlays will prevent local government prohibiting sex work businesses through local planning schemes. Municipal councils will now be the first point of contact for business owners seeking a permit to operate.
Victoria Police will continue to focus on investigating and enforcing criminal activity occurring in the sex industry under Victorian criminal laws and supporting members of the public to access justice.
The Australian Federal Police is responsible for detecting and enforcing offences under Commonwealth criminal laws. This may include investigating crimes involving human exploitation and crimes that break immigration laws.
Vixen is Victoria's peer sex worker organisation, run 100% by and for sex workers. Vixen provides peer education, support, outreach, advocacy and representation for sex workers in Victoria. Sex workers can contact or visit Vixen for peer education, support, information, referrals to sex worker-friendly services, counselling by appointment, community events and to connect with peers.
Resourcing health and Education, known as RhED, is a service for the sex industry in Victoria. The service provides site-based and outreach services in collaboration with relevant programs and agencies.
Guidance on the following pages may help you fulfil your duties under the OHS Act. The guidance may also help you identify and control hazards and risks in the sex industry.
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.