Australian senate passes workplace sexual harassment bill
The amended bill facilitates the process for complaints on sexual harassment, spells out clearly what constitutes sexual harassment, and extends the scope of the law to those currently exempt from it.
The bill incorporates many reforms from the Respect@Work report, which began its investigations in 2018.
The time period during which people can file a complaint has been extended from six months to two years, recognising the fears people may have about coming forward.
The bill also removes the exemption of state and territory public servants, and clarifies that the Sex Discrimination Act extends to members of parliament and judges at the federal, state and territory levels.
In addition, it also makes sexual harassment – defined as unwelcome and demeaning conduct that could reasonably be anticipated to offend, humiliate or intimidate – a valid reason for dismissal.
The Respect@Work report is the product of a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces announced by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. The report “made 55 recommendations to improve the prevention and response to workplace sexual harassment, informed by extensive stakeholder consultation and analysis”.
The report also stressed the responsibility the Australian government, states and territories, employers, and industry groups all have in supporting cultural change and creating safe workplaces.
The bill said “these amendments will support the creation of safe workplaces and are essential for advancing both women’s safety and economic security”, according to jurist.org.