We need to talk about gendered violence at work (and exactly how to spot it).

Thanks to our brand partner, WorkSafe

When it comes to gendered violence in the workplace, some see it as a hard-to-wrap-your-head-around topic. 

Fortunately, thanks to rising awareness, conversations and better resources, the word is out and employers and workers are feeling ready to tackle this important issue.

For a bit of background, gendered violence at work is any behaviour, directed at any person, or that affects a person, because of their sex, gender or sexual orientation that creates a risk to health and safety in the workplace.

It's something that many have sadly experienced throughout their career, and the range in severity is vast.

In a Victorian survey, over 60 per cent of women reported that they had experienced some form of gendered violence at work and have felt at risk in their workplaces. As noted by WorkSafe, gendered violence comes in many forms.

For example, it can include things such as ostracism or exclusion, the use of offensive language or imagery, put-downs, innuendo, and insinuations, or being undermined in your role/position. Gendered violence at work can include particularly serious matters such as stalking, intimidation, or threats. It may also involve verbal abuse, sexually explicit gestures, and sexual harassment or assault. 

Statistically speaking, certain groups are more likely to be impacted. This includes women, those from the LGBTQIA+ community, migrant workers, those with disabilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


But of course, gendered violence in the workplace can happen to anyone, and it's a serious occupational health and safety issue. That's exactly why we need to talk about it right now.

How to spot gendered violence in the workplace.

Now with a better understanding of how the issue is defined, here's what gendered violence might look like in real workplace situations.

  • A caller uses offensive sexual language with a call centre operator.
  • An employer questions or makes negative comments about an employee's sexual orientation or the way they look.
  • Pornographic posters on the wall in a warehouse make a driver feel uncomfortable whenever they have to pick up a delivery.
  • People make jokes about gay relationships in the staffroom, making a gay colleague at a neighbouring table feel threatened and excluded.
  • A pub owner tells the female employees they have to wear short skirts to look appealing for the patrons.
  • An employee receives unwanted sexually explicit texts from another employee after hours.
  • A transgender woman overhears co-workers complaining about her using the women's toilets.
  • A person is sexually assaulted by a client in a care facility.

These are just a few scenarios, but with these examples in mind, it makes it far easier to spot this sort of behaviour happening in the workplace. Now here's what to do if it occurs. 

What workers must know.

The impact of gendered violence is undeniable, from feelings of isolation to a loss of confidence and withdrawal. There can be a financial element too, as sometimes the worker misses shifts because of what they're experiencing in the workplace, potentially leading to economic disadvantage.

For some, they unfortunately might have physical injuries associated with the assault. And for many, there are emotional effects from depression, stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and behaviours to post-traumatic stress disorder.

For these reasons it's crucial to report all incidents of work-related gendered violence to an employer, manager, supervisor or human resources.

This gives the employer the opportunity to respond to the incident and they can take steps to prevent it in the future. This includes reporting if you were to witness an incident directed at someone else.


It's important for victims to know what has happened to them isn't their fault. It is the duty of their employer to remove the risk, so far as reasonably practicable.

What employers must know.

The most pivotal piece of information is this — it is an employer's obligation to provide a safe and respectful workplace for all workers. They must protect employees from every form of work-related gendered violence, given that it is an OHS issue and must be responded to like any other physical hazard. 

Victorian employers have a legal duty to do everything reasonably practicable to control the risk of work-related gendered violence. Acts such as indecent exposure, stalking, sexual assault and obscene or threatening communications may also be criminal offences and should be reported to police. 

The WorkSafe website is a great resource that provides helpful fact sheets for both employees and employers to understand work-related gendered violence and their rights, enabling them to seek help.

By having these conversations the aim is for everyone to do their bit in making sure the workplace is a safe and comfortable environment. Because we can end work-related gendered violence together. 

Learn more about work-related gendered violence on the WorkSafe website. 

Feature Image: Getty.

Gendered violence shows itself in many different ways, and impacts so many different groups of people. But it can be stopped. Learn more about your rights at work. Search Worksafe Gendered Violence to find out more.