Respect@Work Bill

The Respect@Work Bill is set to create duty on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment, discrimination and sex-based harassment

The Federal Government has taken the first step in delivering on its election promise to implement the remaining recommendations from the Respect@Work report.

The most significant change from the Bill introduced into parliament this week would be the creation of a positive duty on employers to take “reasonable and proportionate measures” to eliminate, as far as possible, conduct prohibited by the Sex Discrimination Act, including sexual harassment, discrimination and sex-based harassment.

If the Bill is passed in its current form, the Australian Human Rights Commission (‘AHRC’) will be given additional regulatory powers to enforce compliance with the positive duty, reducing the reliance on individual complaint mechanisms. The AHRC will also have the power to look into suspected systemic unlawful discrimination, which will allow the Commission to be more proactive in preventing widespread discrimination within individual businesses and broader industry sectors.

If passed, the Bill would also make it unlawful to subject a worker to a “hostile work environment”, an offence which is designed to capture conduct which is not directed at any person, but that would constitute sexual harassment if the conduct was directed toward a person. Discretionary timeframes for making a complaint to the AHRC are also set to extend from the current six months to 24 months from the date of the alleged conduct, providing employees with greater opportunity to make a complaint following an instance of unlawful conduct.

As the Bill moves into its third reading, we will continue to keep employers updated on any changes to its operation and on their changing obligations. If you are unsure of your obligations when it comes to preventing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, you should seek professional advice from the specialist employment lawyers at Aitken Legal.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.