Since the introduction of the Federal positive duty to eliminate sexual harassment, there has been a focus on adopting people-centred approaches when managing reports of workplace sexual harassment.

Many of our clients are keen to be proactive in this space but are not always sure what it means practically.

Insights

Taking a person-centred approach to sexual harassment means putting those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment at the centre of any response action. This term can sometimes be used interchangeably with victim-centric, however there is a point of difference. While person-centred inherently includes victims, it also recognises that others may suffer harm if exposed to sexual harassment, including bystanders and others who may be impacted by the conduct.

Adopting a people-centred approach is a shift from the more traditional systems based models of reporting. Systems based models apply standardised procedures which may fail to recognise the unique impact sexual harassment can have on individuals.

The benefit of putting the individual at the centre of your response strategy means that the wellbeing of the individual impacted is paramount, which can in turn support recovery and increase the likelihood of others reporting similar conduct.

There are helpful Respect@Work resources on how organisations can take a person-centred approach to dealing with reports of sexual harassment, with the key features set out below:

  • Empower those impacted to make decisions about how they report and what outcomes they seek

  • Listen without judgement by giving people space to tell their story, free from preconception or bias
  • Keep parties informed by sharing relevant information and updating those impacted accordingly

Organisations who are leading in person-centred approaches are also demonstrating a willingness to critically assess their processes with a continuous improvement lens, in addition to being flexible in their approach and response strategies.

In our experience, it can sometimes be a careful balance between minimising further harm or trauma to those impacted and ensuring procedural fairness is appropriately afforded.

Why this matters

The 2022 National Survey into sexual harassment shows us that one in three reported they have been sexually harassed in the last five years, with only a third of Australian workers believing their employer is doing enough in this space.

With the enhanced Australian Human Rights Commission enforcement powers coming into effect in December 2023, many organisations are rethinking their prevention strategies and response frameworks to improve outcomes for those that have been impacted by sexual harassment.

How we can help

Decipher Workplace Law can guide employers in redesigning reporting frameworks to better support those impacted by workplace sexual harassment. For more information, visit our website: www.decipherlaw.com.au

This is general advice only and does not constitute legal advice. Please seek legal advice regarding your specific circumstances.