The type of policies your organisation should put in place will depend on the needs and circumstances of your particular workplace.

Some organisations choose to have a single workplace policy which prohibits discrimination and harassment on a range of grounds, including a person’s sex, race, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Others may decide there is a need for an additional stand-alone sexual harassment policy, particularly if this is a common or recurring problem in the workplace.

In addition, organisations may have a separate policy on the appropriate use of electronic communication in the workplace.

If an organisation decides to use a general anti-discrimination policy, it is important that the different types of discrimination and harassment are well-defined and addressed comprehensively. If the policy is too broad or generic it can create confusion among staff and, as a result, not be effective.

A good workplace policy on discrimination and harassment should communicate:

  • a strong statement of the organisation’s attitude to discrimination and harassment
  • a definition of discrimination and harassment
  • a statement that discrimination and harassment on any of the grounds in federal/state anti-discrimination legislation is against the law
  • circumstances where discrimination and harassment can occur
  • a statement that everyone has a responsibility to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination
  • information on how and where to seek help if discrimination or harassment occurs
  • the likely consequences of unlawful discrimination or harassment.

Employers can use the Australian Human Rights Commission’s template(link) to create their own workplace policies on discrimination and harassment.

In very small businesses a written policy may be unnecessary, provided that the employer informs all new and existing employees that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that disciplinary action will be taken. Publications from the Australian Human Rights Commission can also be provided for staff to read.