Australia moves to stamp out workplace harassment

Employers are mandated to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace under laws to be introduced into parliament.
By: | September 29, 2022

Australia’s human rights watchdog would be empowered to enforce a positive duty on businesses to protect their workers from harassment after the government committed to fully implementing the recommendations of the landmark 2020 Respect@Work report.

The changes, to be introduced under the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill, implement seven recommendations from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, including expressly banning hostile conduct based on sex, and requiring the public sector to report on its performance on gender equality. 

A joint statement from Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Minister for Women Katy Gallagher and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, said one in three people experienced workplace sexual harassment over the past five years, with women experiencing higher rates than men. 

“Sexual harassment is by no means inevitable, and the passage of this bill will move Australia forward in our efforts to prevent workplace sexual harassment from happening in the first place,” the statement said.

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Gallagher said ending sexual harassment in the workplace was an economic issue as well as a women’s safety issue, “with the social and emotional cost tearing A$3.8 billion (US$2.5 billion) a year out of the Australian economy due to lost productivity, staff turnover and absenteeism”.

“The widespread nature of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is a national disgrace and the introduction of the respect at work bill is a step in the right direction in stopping sexual harassment before it starts,” she said, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.