Co-authored by Jason Vo
On 6 December 2022, the Respect@Work Bill (the Bill) received Royal Assent.
The legislation was introduced with the aims of strengthening protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.
It follows the earlier passage of the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill in its implementation of the recommendations in Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work Report.
The legislation also follows the launch of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the AHRC) and the Respect@Work Council’s Respect@Work website which provides workers and employers with resources to support workplaces to address sexual harassment.
Prohibition of hostile workplace environments
The legislation introduces into the Sex Discrimination Act (the SD Act) a new prohibition to make it unlawful for a person to subject another person to a workplace environment that is hostile on the ground of sex.
Establishment of positive duty on employers to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination
The legislation also introduces into the SD Act a positive duty on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Expansion of the objects of the Sex Discrimination Act
The legislation expands the objects of the SD Act to include the elimination of discrimination involving subjecting persons to workplace environments that are hostile on the ground of sex.
Australian Human Rights Commission inquiries into systemic unlawful discrimination
The legislation amends the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) to empower the AHRC to inquire into any matter that may relate to systemic unlawful discrimination, which includes unlawful discrimination that affects a group of persons and is repetitive.
The legislation enables a representative application, which is an application made to the AHRC on behalf of a person alleging unlawful discrimination, to proceed to the courts.
Certainty as to costs in court proceedings
The legislation provides certainty as to costs for complaints to the AHRC which progress to proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia so that each party is to bear its own costs, unless the court decides otherwise.
Federal public sector bodies to report on gender equality indicators
The legislation amends the Workplace Gender Equality Act to update the reporting requirements for federal public sector agencies and entities which are required to prepare public reports on gender equality indicators.
If you have any questions regarding this article, require assistance with your own workplace discrimination matter or other employment law matter, please contact Coleman Greig’s Employment Law team.
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