Legislative Update: Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 passed by Parliament
Effective from 10 September 2021, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the SD Act), the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW Act) and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) have been amended as a result of the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 (the Bill). The Bill has strengthened and streamlined the regulatory frameworks that protect employees from sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination in the workplace.
The Bill was introduced to implement certain recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘Respect@Work Report’ which will enable employers and other bodies to better avoid and respond to sexual harassment, specifically in the workplace.
The key aspects of the Bill are as follows:
- ‘Sexually harass’ is now a defined term of the FW Act (as per the SD Act definition);
- ‘Sexual harassment’ is now included in the definition of serious misconduct in the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth) and is now recognised in the FW Act as a valid reason for dismissal;
- Employees will be able to make an application to the Fair Work Commission for a ‘stop sexual harassment order’ in line with existing ‘stop bullying orders’;
- The FW Act now includes an entitlement to two days’ paid compassionate leave in circumstances where an employee or their partner have a miscarriage;
- The application of the SD Act has been extended to Members of Parliament and State employees;
- Sexual harassment is now a standalone provision of prohibited sex-based discrimination under the SD Act;
- Protections from sexual harassment available pursuant to the SD Act will now be extended to all workers, including volunteers, unpaid workers, apprentices, interns and self-employed workers;
- The Australian Human Rights Commission’s discretion to dismiss a complaint made under the SD Act based on an elapsed time delay has been extended from 6 months to 12 months.
The changes to the legislation better reflect the expectations of modern society in that behaviour of sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offence and will not be tolerated. It is a welcomed change which sees legislative protections evolving to meet the public push for the elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Norman Waterhouse is available to offer sexual harassment training to clients who determine staff training on appropriate conduct necessary to promote respectful behaviour in the workplace.
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