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Workplace harassment

Every employee has the right to a safe, secure and supportive workplace.

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an individual or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

It occurs when a person is subjected to repeated behaviour, other than behaviour amounting to sexual harassment, by a person, including the person's employer or a co-worker or group of co-workers of the person, that:

  • is unwelcomed and unsolicited
  • the person considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening
  • a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening.

What is not workplace harassment?

  • Single incidents of unreasonable behaviour.
  • Occasional differences of opinion, conflict and problems in work relationships.
  • Reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way.
  • Performance management and disciplinary action taken in accordance with departmental policy.
  • Discrimination and sexual harassment.

Examples of workplace harassment

Whether intentional or unintentional, the following behaviours may be considered as workplace harassment if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety:

  • inappropriate labelling
  • threats, intimidation
  • belittling the opinions of another person
  • spreading rumors
  • making a person feel isolated, alienated or excluded
  • unwarranted criticism of work performance
  • creating and/or imposing unrealistic deadlines or pressure
  • undermining work performance or inappropriately withholding information
  • giving an untrue referee report.

Who can be subjected to workplace harassment?

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

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

Responsibilities

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 workplace 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 of workplace 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, taking 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 harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination
  • ensure compliance with legislative obligations
  • ensure the principles which promote a workplace free from harassment are integrated into every day management practices.

Resolution

The department promotes an early intervention approach for resolving complaints.

Informal

If you think you are being subjected to workplace harassment, 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 the 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.

Formal

If informal attempts to address workplace harassment 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.

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, 107kB) may constitute suspected corrupt conduct and may need to be reported in accordance with relevant HR Policy.

Last updated: 1 July 2015

Further information and support

  • speak with your line manager
  • get support from your local HR team
  • access the Employee Assistance Service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out which service provider is available to your Hospital and Health Service and Department of Health.