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Government Passes Landmark Bill to Combat Sexual Harassment
The House of Representatives has passed the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021. The Bill implements certain recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission report, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces presented to the Government by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, in March last year. Our summary of the Government response to the Respect@Work report can be found here: Federal Government responds to AHRC Respect@Work Report.
Following a heated debate the Government voted against recommendations made by Labor and the Greens that all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report be legislated including, crucially, to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to introduce a positive duty on employers to take reasonable measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, where possible.
The Bill as passed by both houses, which amends the Fair Work Act 2009, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, largely reflects the Bill as first introduced. An exception is the insertion of an item that prevents a worker from making an application to the FWC for an order to stop bullying and/or sexual harassment until two months after the Bill commences, in order to give the FWC time to adjust to the changes.
Our update on the Bill can be found here: Government Introduces Bill in Response to Landmark AHRC Respect@Work Report.