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Sexual harassment and alcohol: You need a clear workplace policy

360Edge recently made a submission to the Western Australian Inquiry into Sexual Harassment Against Women in the FIFO Mining Industry.

In our submission we noted that a strong workplace alcohol and other drug policy is crucial to tackling sexual harassment and misconduct.

Although it’s not the ultimate cause, sexual harassment and assault is strongly associated with alcohol use.

Alcohol can be used as a tool by perpetrators to increase victim vulnerability and enhance their own confidence, as well as an excuse to reduce culpability and accountability.

Although most workplaces don’t allow drinking on the job, it’s not uncommon for co-workers to drink together outside work hours or at work sanctioned functions.

It’s important that workers have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them during work-related drinks. A best-practice alcohol and other drug policy:

  • Prevents harmful alcohol and other drug use among workers and contractors, and reduces risks and harms;
  • Promotes a culture where wellbeing is emphasised with a universally shared perception that alcohol and other drugs at or around work are incompatible with a safe and effective workplace;
  • Provide clear expectations, roles and responsibilities,and instructive procedures for reducing risks and managing issues related to workers’ alcohol and other drug use if they do arise.

Effective alcohol and other drug policies apply to every person equally in the organisation from the most senior staff member to the most junior, including contractors, without exception.

There should be clear guidance for the service of alcohol at work functions (see video below).
Workers serving alcohol at work-related events may be required to hold a current responsible service of alcohol certificate. Those serving alcohol are required to adhere to the principles of harm minimisation.

In order to effectively provide a safe and welcoming place for women in the workplace, it’s imperative that workplaces understand and respond to the role of alcohol in sexual harassment.

Need help? 360Edge can help your organisation design best-practice workplace policies.

Professor Nicole Lee
360Edge CEO