Respect at Work Taskforce

Protecting workers from sexual harassment and other gender-based harms

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Our role

The SafeWork NSW Respect at Work Taskforce will target the prevention and elimination of workplace gender-based harms, with an initial focus on sexual harassment. It aims to: 

Raise awareness about workplace sexual harassment and the responsibility of employers to take all reasonable and practicable steps to eliminate or minimise the risk of workplace sexual harassment and other gender-based harms

Educate and equip workplaces to prevent, minimise and respond to workplace sexual harassment and other gender-based harms

Drive better regulatory outcomes for sexual harassment and other gender-based harms in the workplace under the work health and safety laws, regulations and policies

Focus on high-risk industries and workplaces where sexual harassment and other gender-based harms are prevalent

The Respect at Work Taskforce will deliver on the NSW Government's commitment to:

Everyone has the right to enjoy a safe and healthy workplace free from sexual harassment. Yet, 1 in 3 people have experienced workplace sexual harassment. It occurs in every industry, every location and at every level, regardless of business size.

SafeWork NSW will continue to ensure workplaces meet their duties under the Work Health and Safety Act, and provide them with education and advice on compliance. Read more about your rights as a worker and obligations as a business

What is workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is the most common type of gender-based harm and includes any:

  • unwelcome sexual advance
  • unwelcome request for sexual favours, or
  • other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that would offend, humiliate or intimidate someone.

The most common forms of sexual harassment in the workplace are:

  • sexually suggestive jokes or comments
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or physical appearance
  • inappropriate staring or leering that makes the person feel intimidated
  • unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing
  • inappropriate physical contact.

Workplace sexual harassment can happen in a single event, or can involve repeated behaviour over time. It can take many forms: physical, verbal, non-verbal and online. 

Workplace sexual harassment is harmful the individual and those witnessing the harassment. It also has wide-ranging impacts toa  business reputation, costs in low staff retention and workers compensation, and lower staff productivity.

Learn more about workplace sexual harassment and find resources at Respect@Work

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What are workplace gender-based harms

Gender-based harm includes any harmful behaviour directed at or affects someone, because of their sex, gender or sexual orientation, or because they don’t follow socially prescribed gender roles and stereotypes. This can include harmful behaviour directed towards someone because they:

  • are a woman
  • identify as LGBTQIA+
  • don’t follow traditional ideas about how men and women should look or act.

Gender-based harm can be experienced and perpetrated by anyone regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. It can also be experienced indirectly. For example, by hearing a conversation or witnessing harmful behaviour directed at someone else.

Examples of gender based harm include the following behaviours:

  • stalking, intimidation or threats
  • bullying, physical violence or verbal abuse
  • ostracism or exclusion
  • offensive language or imagery
  • put downs, innuendo and insinuations
  • being undermined in your role or position
  • abuse or harassment related to pregnancy
  • sexual assault

Need urgent support?

If you have experienced or witnessed workplace sexual harassment you can access support by contacting:

1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732

Full Stop Australia – 1800 385 578

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

beyondblue – 1300 22 4636

NSW Police should be contacted in an emergency (000) or to report physical assault, sexual assault or threats to harm someone.

Report an incident by completing the SafeWork NSW psychosocial hazards request for service form.

Access the NSW guide for agencies who address workplace sexual harassment.

The statistics

Workplace sexual harassment is unacceptably common.

The Australian Human Rights Commission released the fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces in November 2022. The survey findings show:

Workers who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


Women who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


People with disability who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


People who identify as LGBTQIA+ who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


People aged 15-17 who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last 5 years.


Keep up to date

Find out about Taskforce announcements, resources and more. 

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