How to conduct a culture audit to comply with Respect@Work


On Thursday 15 June 2023, Rely and Your Call hosted a webinar with Principal of Intersection and author of the Chevron report, Natasha de Silva, and Rely & Your Call’s Senior Advisor, Kirsty Harvison, to discuss:

  • How to conduct a cultural audit to identify the risk of sexual harassment & sex-based discrimination.
  • How to use reporting channels, data, metrics and reporting to demonstrate your positive duty towards eliminating sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination and hostile work environments. 
  • How to get sexual harassment on the board agenda and gain support to build a safe, inclusive and respectful culture.

Key Takeouts

Natasha highlighted 3 important findings from the Respect@Work report:

  • Sexual harassment is chronically under-reported in the workplace – just 18 percent of employees who have experienced harassment made a formal complaint.
  • The impacts and costs of workplace sexual harassment are many and significant.
  • The legal and regulatory framework was no longer fit-for-purpose.

The positive duty is a key shift from a response-based approach to a preventative approach.

  • A positive duty places the onus on employers to address the risk of workplace sexual harassment and prevent the behaviour occurring in the first place.
  • This approach has been very effective in addressing physical health and safety hazards at work.
  • From 13 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission has powers to enforce the positive duty. Employers are required to take reasonable and proportionate action to prevent sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and victimisation. The Commission will consider factors such as the size of the organisation, nature of operation and cost of measures, and will expect more from larger employers.

A workplace cultural audit for sexual harassment and associated inappropriate conduct includes:

  • A review of documentation. Are policies suitable and easy to understand for employees or are they written for managers investigating issues? Do employees know how to raise concerns, and can they do so safely, confidentially and in a person-centred, trauma-informed way?
  • Training. Does training go deep enough or is it a once a year online course? Does it meet the standards for adult learning? Do managers know how to receive and appropriately respond to a sexual harassment disclosure in a trauma-informed, person-centred way? Are they aware of intersectionality and the additional risks faced by minority groups?
  • Workforce Consultation. What are your employees telling you about their experience of the workplace. Do your employees know how to report incidents? Do bystanders understand how to support colleagues and what action they can safely take if they witness bad behaviour? Is your workplace fair and inclusive for employees from minority backgrounds?

Data is a vital piece of the workplace cultural assessment.

  • Data can be confronting but it helps leaders understand the true prevalence of sexual harassment at work and sets the baseline to measure progress.
  • There are a variety of tools you can use including anonymous surveys, employee speak up lines, such as Your Call, and software such as Rely, which help employees speak up, managers to track incidents and leaders to gain an enterprise-wide view of risks across the organisation.
  • Employees often fear speaking up internally so its beneficial to work with independent experts and provide anonymous channels so employees feel safe to speak up without fear of repercussions.

Complying with Respect@Work is the minimum standard. Let’s go beyond compliance and create safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces. Cut It Out!, brought to you by Rely and Your Call, is a program to help leaders combat workplace sexual harassment and comply with Respect@Work. Download a brochure to learn more.

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Are you ready for the Respect@Work changes?

New enforcement powers commence today!  Are you ready?

Effective from 12 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will have the power to investigate whether employers are meeting their new positive duty obligations and to enforce compliance.

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