The Respect@Work Council has published new guidelines on the use of confidentiality clauses in settling workplace sexual harassment cases, and good practice indicators to assist organisations prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.
Both sets of guidelines were recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report and have been published on the respectatwork.gov.au website.
National Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who launched the landmark report in March 2020, said the guidelines on the use of confidentiality clauses were much needed, and called on all those involved in settlements to read them and follow the guidance.
“Confidentiality clauses can cause further harm to victims of workplace sexual harassment and should not be a standard part of settlements. Instead, they should be considered on a case-by-case basis,” Commissioner Jenkins said.
“These guidelines set out the considerations that need to be weighed in deciding the appropriateness of confidentiality clauses in workplace sexual harassment settlements.”
The good practice indicators build on a large suite of resources on the respectatwork.gov.au website to help employers meet their obligations to implement measures to prevent workplace sexual harassment.
Commissioner Jenkins said: “Many employers already provide supportive responses when harassment occurs, but that is not enough – all employers also have a responsibility to actively prevent harassment happening in the first place. The good practice indicators will support employers in those actions.”
The federal Attorney General’s department developed the confidentiality clause guidance and good practice indicators in consultation with the Respect@Work Council and the Commission. The federal government has committed to implementing all 55 recommendations from the Respect@Work Report.
Last month, a major survey by the Commission found that rates of workplace sexual harassment remain high, with one in three workers reporting experiences of sexual harassment in the past five years. The government recently legislated a new positive duty on employers to implement measures to address workplace sexual harassment.
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