Respect at work legislation introduced by Federal government

Respect at work legislation introduced by Federal government

The Albanese Labour government continues to drive its post-election IR and social agenda with the introduction of legislation to further implement recommendations made by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins as part of her Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020) (Respect@Work).

The government is proposing that the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 will increase the requirements for employers to take positive actions to prevent sex discrimination, harassment, and victimisation within workplaces.

In introducing the bill to the House of Representatives on 27 September 2022, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus commented, “The focus on prevention of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination also shifts responsibility from those who experience that discrimination and harassment to those who are best placed to prevent it: employers”.

The previous Liberal government had passed legislation that supported several of the 55 recommendations from Commissioner Jenkins’ Respect@Work from March 2020, but Labour’s legislation is designed to considerably expand the scope of the Commissioner’s findings.

Amongst the key recommendations to be legislated, Attorney General Dreyfus highlighted:

  • Amending the Sex Discrimination Act by introducing an express prohibition “to protect people from hostile workplace environments on the ground of sex”;

  • Empowering the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to inquire into systemic and unlawful discrimination;

  • Enabling representative actions before the AHRC to proceed to the courts;

  • Inserting costs protections into the AHRC Act;

  • Changing the objects of the Sex Discrimination Act to focus on the achievement of substantive equality between men and women.

Prior to the election, the Greens publicly committed to implementing all recommendations from the Respect@Work Report to achieve what they describe as “a roadmap to safer workplaces”.

Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

For queries about legislation, sexual harassment, discrimination, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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