The safety and wellbeing of employees is fundamental to the success of any business. New laws addressing sexual harassment in the workplace are soon to come into effect in Australia, and businesses should be aware of these changes to ensure they are compliant. On 2 September 2021, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 passed both houses of Parliament. The Bill will amend existing federal legislation including the Fair Work Act 2009, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986. This article outlines the rules introduced by the Respect at Work Bill to inform your business operations.
What are the new rules on sexual harassment in the workplace?
Three main changes have been made to the Fair Work Act:
1. Introduction of Sexual Harassment Stop Orders
The Fair Work Commission can now make an order to stop sexual harassment in a workplace upon application by a worker. This aims to give workers a fast, inexpensive mechanism to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
2. Introduction of miscarriage leave
Employees can now receive two days of paid compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) if the employee, or their current spouse or de factor partner, has a miscarriage.
3. Dismissal for sexual harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace is now expressly stated as a valid reason for dismissal.
What other changes have been made to sexual harassment laws?
- More workers are now covered under the Sex Discrimination Act, including all paid and unpaid workers, volunteers, interns, and self-employed workers.
- The time period for making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission regarding sexual harassment will be extended from six months to two years.
The Respect at Work Bill is a clear statement by the federal government that sexual harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. Businesses should review their employment contracts and policies to ensure they align with the new changes.