Respect at Work Bill

Published on:
Thursday, 8 July, 2021
Employee Relations

The Respect at Work Bill is seeking to address some of the 55 recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission in its ‘Respect @ Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020)’ (Respect@Work Report) published on 5 March 2020.

The Federal Government previously released its general response to the Respect@Work Report recommendations in ‘A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces’ on 8 April 2021.  

Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984

The changes proposed to the SD Act include:

  • The introduction of a new object of equality of opportunity between men and women.
  • The prohibition of sex-based harassment.
  • The introduction of a new definition of sex-based harassment as ‘unwelcome conduct of a seriously demeaning nature by reason of the person’s sex in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have anticipated would cause the person to be offended, humiliated or intimidated’.
  • Clarifying that sexual harassment is a health and safety issue, making it clear that employers must eliminate or minimise the risk of sexual harassment so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Clarifying that a person who causes, instructs, induces, aids or permits someone else to engage in sexual harassment or sex-based harassment may also be guilty of unlawful conduct under the ancillary liability provisions of the SD Act.
  • Extending the SD Act to members of parliament, their staff and judges, and removing the existing exemption of state public servants in the SD Act.

Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009

The changes proposed to the FW Act include:

  • Expanding the current anti-bullying jurisdiction to allow the FWC to issue a “stop order” in relation to sexual harassment.
  • Inserting the definition of sexual harassment from the SD Act.
  • Inserting a legislative note under s.387 of the FW Act to confirm that sexual harassment may be regarded as a valid reason for dismissal.

The WALGA ER team will be monitoring the progress of the Respect at Work Bill and will provide updates in the future.

If you subscribe to the WALGA Employee Relations service and have any questions about this alert, please email WALGA Employee Relations or call 1300 366 956.

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