Residential care provider fined $300,000 over workplace sexual violence

The District Court of NSW recently convicted and fined a residential care provider $300,000 for breaching its WHS obligations and as a result of exposing workers to a risk of violence, including inappropriate sexual behaviour, in the workplace.

The case was brought by SafeWork NSW against Marist Youth Care, for failing to address risks of inappropriate sexual and violent behaviour and a history of assault by clients, which resulted in a risk of serious illness or injury to workers.

Workplace violence including sexual harassment is a WHS hazard which affects workers across all industries.

To help prevent this WHS hazard, employers can:

  • Consult with workers to develop policies and procedures to identify and prevent WHS risks and communicate them to workers, visitors and customers
  • Regularly assess work design and environment risks that can contribute to workplace violence and sexual harassment such as working at night, alone, in remote or isolated settings and client or home visit related work
  • Address barriers to reporting, provide timely and confidential (informal and formal) reporting options and offer support to anyone who makes a report.

“This is a significant conviction brought by SafeWork NSW against Marist Youth Care for failing to prevent the risk of work-related violence and should be a warning to NSW employers that violence and sexual harassment in the workplace are never acceptable,” said head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin.

“Under NSW WHS laws, employers are required to address WHS risks and should take proactive, preventative action in their workplaces to ensure workers are protected from harm, including from violence and sexual harassment.”