Navigating Workplace Risks:
A Comprehensive Approach to Sexual Harassment Prevention

For many businesses risk management is a standard and fundamental feature of assessing the operations of the business and planning to meet future eventualities. Despite the widespread occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace across various industries as well as the fact that it can be financially and reputationally damaging, a robust approach to risk management has yet to be applied in many organisations. This is because the burden of raising and pursuing grievances in this area was left to the individual victims, and most cases of sexual harassment were not pursued.

Under the new dispensation and the implementation of the positive duty it is now a requirement for businesses and other organisations to embark on a program of risk assessment specifically directed at sexual harassment.

As the AHRC guidelines point out, in most businesses and organisations there is a risk that unlawful workplace behaviour may occur and may pose a risk to the physical and psychological well-being of workers.

The type of risk management which will be adopted by a particular organisation will vary depending on the size and nature of the organisation and it will be important to understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution.

At the outset, organisations should consider whether known drivers and risk factors for unlawful behaviour, and particularly sexual harassment exist in their workplaces.

Considerations may include:

  • Identifying large power imbalances in the structure of the workforce
  • Recognizing if there is a distinct culture of masculinity
  • Assessing if there are often gatherings outside of the normal workplace
  • Evaluating events involving the consumption of large amounts of alcohol

Subsequent stages of assessment involve understanding:

  • The demographic most likely to be affected
  • Groups or levels of employees prone to being potential perpetrators
  • The times and locations where harassment is most likely to occur



Practical guidelines

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


Thorough Risk Assessment

Tailor your risk management approach to the unique size and nature of your organisation. Identify potential risk factors and drivers, such as power imbalances, cultural aspects, social gatherings, and events involving alcohol.


Understanding Dynamics

Identify groups or levels of employees susceptible to being affected or acting as potential perpetrators. Determine when and where harassment is most likely to occur.


Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment

  • Regularly identify and assess the risk of unlawful conduct and its potential impact.
  • Implement effective control measures.
  • Periodically review control measures to ensure continued effectiveness.
  • Adjust as needed to ensure ongoing effectiveness in preventing and addressing sexual harassment.

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