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Sexual harassment

The Department of Health is committed to the provision of a workplace that is free from sexual harassment.

What is sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is conduct that occurs when an employee:

a) subjects another person to an unsolicited act of physical intimacy

b) makes an unsolicited demand or request (whether directly or by implication) for sexual favours from the other person

c) makes a remark with sexual connotations relating to the other person

d) engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the other person, and the person engaging the conduct described in (a), (b), (c) and/or (d) does so:

  • with the intention of offending, humiliating or intimidating another person
  • in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.

Sexual harassment does not have to be repeated. Sexual harassment may constitute suspected corrupt conduct and may need to be reported in accordance with applicable policy. Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

What is not sexual harassment?

Sexual interaction, such as flirtation and attraction is not sexual harassment when it is invited, mutual, consensual or reciprocated.

Examples of sexual harassment

Unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited:

  • touching
  • sexual or suggestive comments, jokes or innuendo
  • requests for sexual favours
  • display of sexually explicit material, such as posters, pictures and emails
  • intrusive questions about a person's private life
  • staring or leering
  • sex based insults or taunts
  • offensive communications, including telephone calls, letters, faxes and emails
  • repeated invitations or compliments.

Who can be subjected to sexual harassment?

Both men and women can be the subjects of sexual harassment, which can occur between:

  • co-workers
  • supervisors/managers and subordinate employees
  • employees
  • members of the public.


Employees have an obligation to create and maintain an ethical, professional and productive work culture by carefully considering their own behaviour and its potential impact on others.

Employees should:

  • understand what sexual harassment is in the workplace
  • not engage in or encourage other employees in such behaviour
  • report such behaviour
  • understand and comply with relevant policies.

Supervisors/managers should:

  • understand and be familiar with relevant policies
  • model and uphold acceptable behaviour and professional standards of conduct in the workplace 
  • monitor the workplace for signs sexual harassment and promptly address such behaviour
  • take reasonable steps to promote relevant policy and educate employees about appropriate and acceptable workplace behaviour
  • identify and set expectations in relation to appropriate workplace behaviour and respond to complaints promptly, fairly and objectively
  • treat all allegations seriously and sensitively, and take appropriate action.

The Department of Health will:

  • model appropriate behaviour and professional standards of conduct in the workplace
  • provide leadership (and appropriate resources) on the implementation of awareness initiatives which promote a workplace free from sexual harassment
  • ensure compliance with legislative obligations
  • ensure the principles which promote a workplace free from sexual harassment are integrated into every day management practices.


The department promotes an early intervention approach for resolving complaints.


If you think you are being subjected to such behaviour, you may consider whether it is appropriate to address the issue informally in the first instance. You can do this by:

  • speaking with the person who is engaging in such behaviour
  • respectfully letting them know how their behaviour is making you feel
  • asking them to stop.

While it is not an excuse, some people are unaware of how their behaviour makes others feel and will cease immediately once they become aware of it.


If informal attempts to address such behaviour are unsuccessful, you may:

  • talk to your manager (or a director if your manager is the person engaging in such behaviour)
  • lodge a formal complaint in accordance with relevant HR Policy
  • contact staff complaints hotline on 1800 195 240 or email

Allegations of sexual harassment are serious, and your manager is required to take appropriate action to address the concerns, even if you tell them you don't want anything done about it.

Where concerns are raised about unlawful discrimination and vilification, a manager has an obligation to take appropriate action. If an employee asks that no action be taken, a manager is still required to consider the nature and seriousness of the alleged conduct in determining whether action is taken.

Unlawful discrimination or vilification (PDF, 144kB) may constitute suspected corrupt conduct and may need to be reported in accordance with relevant HR Policy.


A number of possible options may be employed by management to resolve your complaint, including, but not limited to, mediation, conciliation, discussions with parties to the complaint, formal investigations or no further action.

The decision maker may also determine what further action, if any, is required which may include, but is not limited to, training, managerial action, counselling, policy/process review or disciplinary action (including termination of employment).

The department's management action will be exclusive of other legal or criminal penalties that may apply.

Last updated: 10 October 2018

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