The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomed the passage through Federal Parliament today of the ‘Respect at Work’ Bill – a milestone in addressing workplace sexual harassment in Australia.
The Bill creates a positive duty requiring employers to implement measures to prevent sexual harassment, sex discrimination and victimisation, and confers new regulatory powers on the Commission.
National Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said: “The Respect@Work Bill is a major achievement that fundamentally changes how Australia protects people from workplace sexual harassment.
“It changes our settings from being reactive to also being proactive, so that employers are required to take meaningful action to prevent harassment from occurring. It shifts the emphasis from a complaints-based model to one where employers must take action, and continuously assess and evaluate whether they are meeting the requirements of the duty.
The Commission, together with the Respect@Work Council, launched a new website earlier this month, respectatwork.gov.au, providing comprehensive information and resources to help businesses fulfil their obligations and create respectful workplaces, free from harassment.
The positive duty was a key recommendation of the Commission’s landmark Respect@Work Report, led by Commissioner Jenkins, published in March 2020. The Government has committed to implementing all the report’s 55 recommendations as a matter of priority.
Commissioner Jenkins said: “Although there will be a 12-month transition period before the duty becomes enforceable, I urge all workplaces to implement change now, so that people may enjoy safer workplaces, free from sexual harassment, sooner.
“These important reforms are timely and should be considered by state and territory governments to achieve greater harmonisation of sexual harassment legislation as part of any upcoming legislative reviews.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission has also proposed a positive duty and other reforms across all four federal discrimination laws in its position paper released in December 2021, Free and Equal: A reform agenda for federal discrimination law.
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