Empowering Change: Building Knowledge to Eradicate Workplace Harassment

The AHRC has designated knowledge as its third standard for workplace sexual harassment. It is noteworthy that the guidelines treat the notions of education and knowledge as equivalent, marking a conceptual shift away from traditional sexual harassment training.

This conceptual shift means a change in the nature and scope of the obligations resting on employers to ensure that employees have a genuine and comprehensive understanding of the harms associated with sexual harassment.

The objectives according to the Guidelines are:

“Building knowledge about respectful behaviour, the nature of relevant unlawful conduct, what causes it, the extent to which it occurs and the harm that it creates is critical for the elimination of such behaviours”

The focus of the new framework is to shift from an instructional mode describing prohibited behaviour to one that embeds awareness that sexual harassment is damaging for the workplace environment in general. This framework is based on the premise that sexual harassment infringes every-ones’ right to respect in the workplace. Therefore, all leaders as well as employees should assume responsibility for the elimination of sexual harassment.

The new approach requires employers to abandon tick-box, standardised, usually tedious training which has been the norm and which employers assumed would be adequate to fend off legal liability. Training of this type has been criticized by the AHRC as being ineffective.

education should include formal training or learning supplemented by ongoing learning opportunities


Under the new model, education’s scope and goals are more nuanced. The guidelines stipulate that the education should include formal training or learning supplemented by ongoing learning opportunities; provided with atrauma-informed approach because of the sensitivity of the area covered and is tailored to the needs of the specific organisation.

This new paradigm involves instilling in the workforce a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of all the ramifications of unlawful workplace behaviour. An effective policy in this area should include:

  • A statement that sex discrimination; sexual harassment and sex-based harassment are unacceptable.
  • A statement that organisations have an obligation to eliminate unlawful conduct.
  • A commitment to provide a safe work environment.
  • Definitions of the various types of unlawful behaviour.
  • A statement that the policy applies to workers and third parties.
  • Recognition of the drivers of unlawful conduct such as gender equality.

Ultimately, the described education aims to foster a respectful and inclusive work environment where many of the drivers of sexual harassment such as gender disparities, excessive power differences and victimizing complainants are eliminated.



Practical guidelines

to equip leaders and organisations with the tools they need to meet the positive duty:


Holistic Education

Implement a comprehensive education program that goes beyond standard, tick-box training.


Empathy in Education

Utilize a trauma-informed approach, acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic and ensuring empathy in the program’s design.


Customized learning

Customize the content to align with your organisation’s values, policies, and goals, addressing specific challenges and dynamics.


Policy Clarity

Develop a comprehensive policy that clearly denounces sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sex-based harassment.


Inclusive Scope

Ensure the policy applies to all individuals associated with your organization, including employees and third parties.


Eradicate Harassment Drivers

Work to eliminate factors contributing to sexual harassment, such as gender disparities, power imbalances, and victimization of complainants.


By following these practical recommendations, your organisation can cultivate a more respectful and inclusive work environment while effectively addressing issues related to sexual harassment.