Respect Bill Passed

The Morrison Government’s Respect@Work legislation has now passed both houses of parliament, after the House of Representatives backed the legislation, as amended by the Senate.

The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Cth) (Amendment Act) implements significant elements of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ landmark Respect@Work report on workplace sexual harassment. The Bill gives effect to the Government’s commitments in relation to Ms Jenkins recommendations.

The Key Changes

The Amendment Act makes it clearer that sexual harassment is a sackable offence and further clarifies that harassing a person on the basis of sex is prohibited.

Instead of six months, employees making allegations of sexual harassment will now have 24 months to lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Amendment Act also includes a recognition that sexual harassment is a workplace health and safety issue, like bullying, and establishes a framework for victims to apply for an “order to stop sexual harassment” through the Fair Work Commission. Applications for stop sexual harassment orders can be made from 11 November 2021.

The new legislation also broadens the definition of what constitutes work for the purpose of making a sexual harassment claim and whose conduct can be subject to a complaint. This means more vulnerable workers will be covered, as well as people working from home.

“So we now have a better understanding that work is pretty much when you’re doing work, at any time, in any place”, stated Ms Jenkins.

Crucially for many, the Amendment Act closes a loophole that previously exempted public officials, including judges, members of parliament and their staff, from being the subject of complaints of sexual harassment.

If you have any questions about how the Respect@Work legislation will influence your business and its employment policies please do not hesitate to contact Nick StevensLuke Maroney, and Daphne Klianis.

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