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Respect at Work – how the government is aiming to create a new culture of respectful behaviour in Australian workplaces

Respect at Work

The Federal Government has responded to the recent Respect@Work Report into workplace sexual harassment with the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021. If passed, this Bill will introduce into law a number of changes to the Sex Discrimination, Fair Work, and Australian Human Rights Commission Acts.

What are these changes?

Sex Discrimination Act (SDA)

If passed, the Bill will:

  • Ensure that the SDA is further aligned with Work Health and Safety laws, which emphasises employers needing to be proactive, rather than reactive, to sexual harassment in the workplace;
  • Amend the SDA so that anyone who causes, instructs, induces, aids or permits another person to commit sexual harassment will also be liable.

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Act

The proposed legislation amends the AHRC Act so that:

  • Any victimising conduct can form the basis of not just a criminal complaint, but also civil action for unlawful discrimination.
  • The period individuals have to make a complaint against sexual harassment will be extended to 2 years from the current 6-month limit.

Fair Work Act (FWA)

The Bill would amend the FWA in the following way:

  • Clarify that a ‘stop bullying order’ is available in the context of sexual harassment specifically;
  • Make Sexual Harassment a valid reason for dismissal, giving some protection to employers from unfair dismissal claims if they dismiss an employee for sexual harassment; and
  • Expand compassionate leave so that, if an employee, or an employee’s current spouse or de facto partner, has a miscarriage, they can take up to two days’ paid compassionate leave.

What’s next?

We will let you know if and when these changes become law and what they will mean for your business.

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