Prevent and manage work-related gendered violence in your small business

How to create a workplace that is free from gendered-violence.



How this helps your business

Gendered violence is a serious physical and mental 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 respond to gendered violence.

Having a clear approach to preventing gendered violence at work, work related events, or between people sharing the same workplace can create a working environment that is healthy and safe from harm for everyone. Ensuring you have policies and procedures in place to prevent gendered violence 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 on this topic

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 or witnesses it

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

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

  • stalking, intimidation or threats
  • verbal abuse
  • ostracism or exclusion (can be in systems of work, opportunities and within social context)
  • 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

Refer to WorkSafe Victoria’s guidance below for more detailed information.


Gendered violence

Step 2

Show commitment

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

It is important that you communicate to your staff that you are committed to a workplace culture free of gendered violence including sexual harassment. There are several ways you can show your commitment. See the list below for some ideas.

  • Develop or review strategies to prevent gendered violence. Step 4 will help you develop or review your policy and strategies.
  • Allocate resources and provide training to prevent and respond to gendered violence.
  • Consult regularly with employees and support them to prevent gendered violence from occurring.
  • Encourage employees to report any incidents and treat each incidence seriously and without judgement.

Share this fact sheet with your employees to help start the conversation about the risks and what can be done about them.

Step 3

Identify the risks

Now that you have committed to taking action to prevent gendered violence, the next step is to review 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 Health and Safety Representatives if you have them, team leaders, employees, 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 you can gather information to identify gendered violence risks.

  • Do confidential staff satisfaction surveys.
  • Use monitoring information like hazard and incident reports, and WorkCover claims.
  • Collect data from staff exit interviews/surveys.
  • Gendered audit– what is the breakdown of employee genders in the business? Which genders have a say or influence in the work place?
  • Review systems of work and access to entitlements such as paid parental leave to establish if there are structural barriers to equal participation in the workplace.
  • Review patterns of absenteeism, sick leave, and turnover of staff from one demographic (for example, a pattern of female employees staying for short periods in the business and leaving).
  • Observe if there is an employee/s 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 ‘Preventing and responding to gendered violence including sexual harassment’ to identify strategies to assist in the prevention of gendered violence in your workplace.

Step 4

Develop or review your policy

Once you have collected your information, it is now time to develop or review your policy to prevent gendered violence from occurring.

By developing a work behaviour policy you will set expectations about behaviours associated with gendered violence. You could have policies about gendered violence, bullying, violence, or one policy that covers all issues.

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

Your policy needs to make sense for your workplace. This template and checklist will give you some ideas where to get started, but remember to tailor it to suit your workplace.

Policy checklist

  • Your policy sets clear expectations that behaviours, attitudes and language that disrespect or exclude people are not allowed.
  • Your policy describes procedures for reporting unwanted or offensive behaviour.
  • Your policy tells staff how to report an incident, and that they will be supported.
  • Your policy tells supervisors how to act appropriately when a report is made to ensure the person making the report is not blamed or penalised for the incident, or subjected to further harm.
  • Your policy includes support and referral information for staff who have experienced gendered violence and want additional support.
  • Your policy establishes work systems that can assist in the prevention of gendered violence.
  • Your policy establishes physical environmental controls that can assist in the prevention of gendered violence.
  • Your policy includes confidential incident report and response procedures.
  • Your policy includes systems that guide what to do at the time of, and immediately after, an incident, and have a system for managing, reporting and investigating incidents of gendered violence.
  • Information about this can be found on pages 14 - 17 of the WorkSafe Victoria guidance ‘Preventing and responding to gendered violence including sexual harassment’
  • Your policy encourages bystanders to intervene when there is an incidence of gendered violence, if they feel safe to do so.
  • Your policy outlines, and you put in place, facilities and equipment which 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 on the policy, it is time to get started on implementing your strategies from the policy.

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 gendered violence and how your workplace is addressing it.

Review your policy and choose 1 or 2 strategies to get started on right now. By taking action you are showing you care and taking steps to creating a culture where gendered violence is not acceptable.

When looking at what you 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.

The Our Watch website has more resources and examples of how to develop strategies that will help implement your policy.

Step 6

Review and keep improving

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

This will help you understand what is working well and make better decisions that are in line with your policy.

Here are some tips:

  • Make a specific person, role or small working group responsible for monitoring and evaluating strategies. They can keep track of how things are changing over time.
  • Create timelines to make improvements.
  • Make time to assess progress. This could be quarterly, every 6 months or annually. Set a date and stick to it. For efficiency, look at reviewing this policy when you are reviewing your other workplace health, safety and wellbeing policies.
  • Add review dates 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?
  • 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?

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