Prevent and manage work-related gendered violence in your medium or large business

Learn about work-related gendered violence and implement strategies to prevent and manage risk.



How this helps your business

Work-related gendered violence is a serious physical and psychological OHS issue that all employers have a responsibility to prevent.

Under the OHS Act 2004 and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, employers are required to prevent and stop work-related gendered violence.

Having a clear approach to preventing gendered violence in your workplace can create a working environment that is safe and free from harm for everyone. Ensuring you have policies and procedures in place to support your employees is critical to creating a positive physically and mentally healthy workplace.

Key stats and facts

Over 60%  

of women reported that they had experienced some form of gendered violence at work and have felt at risk in their workplaces.

Victorian Trades Hall Council, report Stop gendered violence at work: Women’s rights at work

A common form of work-related gendered violence is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a common and known cause of physical and mental injury.

Step 1

Learn more about this topic

Work-related gendered violence is any behaviour done to a person because of their sex, gender or sexual orientation, or because they do not fit in with socially acceptable gender roles. For example:

  • they are a woman
  • they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or asexual (LGBTIQA+)
  • they don't match traditional ideas about how men and women should look and act

Work-related gendered violence can be:

  • carried out by anyone regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity
  • aimed directly at an individual or a group
  • a behaviour that while not directed at anyone, affects someone who is exposed to it, or witnesses it

To better understand work-related gendered violence and your responsibility as an employer, watch the short 3 minute video at the end of this step.

In addition to this, workplaces in the Victorian Public Sector, universities and local councils, are also required to follow the Gender Equality Act 2020. Click on the resource card below to better understand your obligations and actions as part of this Act.

The list below highlights the types of behaviours that classify as work-related gendered violence. They can range in severity from comments and gestures, through to sexual assault and rape. It can also include:

  • stalking, intimidation or threats
  • verbal abuse
  • ostracism or exclusion
  • sexually explicit gestures
  • offensive language or imagery
  • put downs, innuendo, and insinuations
  • being undermined in your role or position
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual assault or rape

Read WorkSafe Victoria's guide for employers, which can help you prevent and respond to work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment.

Gendered violence

Step 2

Show leadership commitment

Now that you have a better understanding of gendered violence, you can work towards creating a respectful and safe workplace culture.

Prevention and management of work-related gendered violence requires active engagement from all levels of your workplace. This includes the board and senior leadership.

Board members and senior leaders can have a powerful influence when they communicate their commitment to a workplace culture free of gendered violence and when they champion continuous health and safety improvements. Leadership needs to be active and visible in their commitment to the prevention and management of gendered violence and sexual harassment.

There are several ways leaders and managers can show their commitment. See the list below for some ideas.

  • Developing or reviewing organisational strategies to prevent gendered violence - we can help develop or review your policy and strategies later on in the action.
  • Monitoring and reporting on prevention of gendered violence outcomes (steps 3 and 4 will help you with this).
  • Showing a commitment to reporting all incidents and ensuring they are treated seriously without judgement, while supporting all employees in managing gendered violence.
  • Allocating resources and identifying training to prevent and manage gendered violence.
  • Regularly consulting with and supporting employees to prevent gendered violence from occurring.

Our Watch is a national leader in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. They have developed the Workplace Equality and Respect Implementation Guide, which provides a step by step approach on how to gain support from your leaders to create safe and respectful work place. Pages 9 - 10 of the guide can help you to determine if there is leadership commitment to prevent work-related gendered violence in your organisation.

Watch the 1 minute video from Our Watch: Workplace Equality and Respect to learn about the importance of leadership commitment.

Step 3

Identify the risks

Now that your leaders have committed to taking action to prevent gendered violence in the workplace, the next step is to conduct a review of your workplace to identify risks, what you are currently doing well, and where you can improve.

This will require you to gather information through consultation with leaders, employees, Health and Safety Representatives and health and safety committees if you have them, and also with customers and clients.

You should also ensure that the consultation process raises awareness of and addresses issues around gender and gendered violence in an appropriate and supportive way.

Use the list below for some ideas on how your workplace can gather information to identify gendered violence risks and areas of concern.

  • surveys – undertake staff satisfaction surveys and confidential surveys
  • use monitoring information like hazard, incident reports and WorkCover claims
  • collect data from staff exit interviews/surveys
  • gendered audit of workplaces – what is the breakdown of genders? Which genders hold more leadership roles? Which genders work mostly part-time?
  • review patterns of absenteeism, sick leave, turnover of staff from one demographic (for example, a pattern of female employees staying for short periods in the business and leaving)
  • review formal reports of gendered violence incidents
  • observe if there is an employee or employees who may be performing differently. They may be suddenly taking more sick leave, isolating themselves, or not attending work functions

Complete the checklist on page 10 of the WorkSafe guide for employers on 'Preventing work-related gendered violence' to further identify potential risks in your workplace.

Step 2 on page 14 of the Our Watch Workplace Equality and Respect Implementation Guide steps out 4 key tasks to plan and prioritise the prevention of work-related gendered violence. It also offers tools such as the Self-Assessment Tool, which will help you to reflect on current practice, experience, culture and processes in the work place.

Step 4

Develop or review your policy

Once you have collected your information, it is now time to develop or review your policies and procedures to prevent work-related gendered violence from occurring.

By developing workplace behaviour policies and procedures you will help to set expectations about behaviours associated with gendered violence. You could have policies about gendered violence, bullying, sexual harassment and occupational violence, or you could have one policy that covers all issues.

Your staff should be involved in the development and review of your policy to ensure that your policy is relevant to your workplace. They must also be clear on where the policy is located and how to action it.

This template and checklist will give you some ideas where to get started, but remember to tailor it to suit your workplace.

For some ideas on strategies your workplace can implement as part of your policy, click on the below resource card which can provide examples of how your workplace can take action.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has developed guidelines to support the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.The guidelines help employers of all business sizes prevent and respond to sexual harassment. These tools and resources can be adapted to help develop your policy on gendered violence. See the Commission’s companion guide for the guidelines Preventing and responding to sexual harassment: A quick guide for employers.

Policy checklist

  • Your policy sets clear expectations that behaviours, attitudes and language that disrespect or exclude people based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or assumptions about dominant gender stereotypes and prescribed gender roles aren't allowed.
  • Policy describes procedures for reporting unwanted or offensive behaviour and is communicated during induction and throughout employment.
  • Workers are aware of how to report an incident with confidence and know they will be supported. Line supervisors should act appropriately when a report is made to ensure the person making the report is not blamed or penalised for the incident.
  • Your policy includes support and referral information for those who have experienced work-related gendered violence and may want additional support.
  • Does your policy establish work systems that can assist in the prevention of gendered violence? Refer to your completed checklist in step 3 for strategies.
  • Does your policy establish physical environmental controls that can assist in the prevention of gendered violence? Refer to your completed checklist in step 3 for strategies.
  • Work systems and procedures in your policy should include confidential incident report and response policies and procedures. Information about this can be found on pages 14 - 17 of the WorkSafe Victoria guidance for preventing gendered violence.
  • Your policy should encourage bystanders to intervene when there is an incidence of gendered violence, if they feel safe to do so.
  • Consider in your policy if workplace facilities and equipment give privacy and security for all staff – such as all-gender toilets with separate cubicles, or private change rooms or accommodation.

Step 5

Start implementing

Now that you have identified the risks, developed a policy and your employees have had a chance to provide feedback, it is time to get started on implementing your strategies.

Strategies are the actions that you and your employees will take to implement your policy. For example, you could develop a Communications Plan that aims to communicate messages about work-related gendered violence and how your workplace is addressing this issue.

Review your policy/policies and choose 2 or 3 strategies to get started on right now. By taking action you are showing your workplace cares and takes steps to creating a culture that work-related gendered violence is not acceptable.

When looking at what your workplace can put in place to address risks, remember that your aim is to remove the risk completely. If this is not possible, then your aim is to reduce the risk as much as you can.

Watch these 3 short videos to see how different organisations (Uniting, Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health and North Melbourne Football Club) have adopted Workplace Equality and Respect’s step-by-step process to help them promote and embed gender equality in their workplace.

Step 6

Review and keep improving

To allow for continuous improvement in the workplace, your strategies must be monitored, reviewed and evaluated.

Reviewing your strategies regularly will help you understand what is working well and helps you make better decisions that are in line with your policy for preventing work-related gendered violence.

Here are some tips for reviewing your strategies:

  • Make a specific person, role or working group in your organisation responsible for monitoring and evaluating strategies - they can keep track of how things are changing over time
  • Create timelines to make improvements
  • Make time annually to assess progress, this could be quarterly, every 6 months or annually - set a date and stick to it
  • Add reviews to your preferred notification system such as your calendar or web based applications
  • Have regular conversations with all employees and keep them engaged, If something didn't work, ask employees to tell you and get them involved in ways to improve things
  • Look to see if strategy goals have been achieved - If not, why? Was it a lack of understanding?
  • Talk with your employees and ask the following questions:
    • Have the strategies been implemented as planned?
    • Are they working?
    • Are there any new problems?
  • Look at your broader policy commitments and assess progress, what achievements can you celebrate?

The workplace environment can often change quickly, whether this be rapid expansion or downsizing, new projects, change in workforce demographics, legislation or societal issues. These changes can increase the risk of gendered violence in the work place, highlighting how important it is to set regular reviews for your current policies to see if they are still effective and relevant.

Specify a date that you will review your organisation’s requirements and put it in your calendar or other notification system. For efficiency, look at reviewing this policy when you are reviewing your other workplace health, safety and wellbeing policies.

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