Respect@Work – consultation on remaining legislative recommendations

Closed 18 Mar 2022

Opened 14 Feb 2022

Overview

In 2018, the Government commissioned the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. The product of this inquiry – the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020) (Respect@Work Report) – found that sexual harassment is a pervasive and widespread issue in Australian workplaces. The Respect@Work Report set out 55 recommendations addressed to the Government, states and territories, employers and industry groups to prevent and address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

The Government released its response to the Respect@Work Report, titled A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (the Roadmap), on 8 April 2021. The Roadmap sets out the Government's long‑term commitment to driving cultural change and building safer and more respectful workplaces. The Government agreed or noted all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work Report. No recommendations have been rejected and progress continues on the remaining recommendations.

Why are we consulting?

The Respect@Work Report made 13 recommendations to amend Commonwealth legislation. The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect at Work Act) commenced on 11 September 2021 and implemented six of these recommendations. In addition, the Fair Work Amendment (Respect at Work) Regulations 2021 commenced on 10 July 2021 and implemented a further legislative recommendation. The Government prioritised these reforms as they could be implemented quickly and would immediately strengthen the overarching legal framework with respect to discrimination and sexual harassment.

Consistent with the Government’s approach outlined in the Roadmap, the Government is now seeking views on  the remaining legislative recommendations. These proposals include:

  • providing that creating or facilitating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment on the basis of sex is expressly prohibited (recommendation 16(c))
  • introducing a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and provide the AHRC with the function of assessing compliance with the positive duty, and for enforcement (recommendations 17 and 18)
  • providing the AHRC with a broad inquiry function to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment (recommendation 19)
  • enabling representative bodies to bring representative claims to court (recommendation 23); and
  • inserting a cost provision into the AHRC Act to provide that a party to proceedings may only be ordered to pay the other party's costs in limited circumstances (recommendation 25)

These recommendations raise complex policy issues and are intertwined with existing legislative frameworks, such as Work Health and Safety laws. We are seeking your views to ensure the Government's next steps are measured and complement, rather than complicate, the existing legal frameworks.

Who do we want to hear from?

The Government is interested in views from legal experts, legal practitioners, academics, representative organisations, employers and businesses, and individuals who have experienced sexual harassment and engaged with the legal process.

How can you engage with the consultation process? 

Individuals and organisations are invited to complete a survey on Citizen Space via the 'Complete our survey' link below. The survey opens on 14 February 2022 and closes on 18 March 2022.

The accompanying Consultation Paper: Respect@Work – Options to Progress Further Legislative Recommendations informs the questions in this survey. We encourage you to download, read and refer to the consultation paper as you share your views in response to the questions raised in the survey.

Seeking support

If you or someone you know needs support or advice, you can contact 1800RESPECT for free, national telephone advice. For information and referrals on discrimination issues, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1800 656 419 or email infoservice@humanrights.gov.au or visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Interests

  • Legislation
  • Human rights