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Government takes steps to eliminate sexual harassment in Australian workplaces

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts
Leader of the House
The Hon Tony Burke MP

Cabinet Secretary
The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP

Joint media release

Today the Government introduced the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022, delivering on an important election commitment to end sexual harassment at work.

This bill will implement seven legislative changes recommended by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, left unfinished by the former government.

The bill will: 

  • Place a positive duty on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, as far as possible;
  • Strengthen the Australian Human Rights Commission with new functions to assess and enforce compliance with this new requirement, including the capacity to give compliance notices to employers who are not meeting their obligations;
  • Expressly prohibit conduct that results in a hostile workplace environment on the basis of sex; and
  • Ensure Commonwealth public sector organisations are also required to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on its gender equality indicators.

Over the past five years, one in three people experienced sexual harassment at work, with women experiencing higher rates of harassment than men.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and members of the LGBTQ+ community are also, on average, more likely to experience workplace sexual harassment.

Everyone has the right to a safe and respectful workplace and the fact that workplaces have not been safe or respectful for so many Australians is unacceptable.

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 Albanese Government is committed to finalising implementation of all recommendations of the Respect@Work Report as a matter of priority.

This Bill is also part of our important work to progress gender equality, recognising that achieving women’s economic equality includes making sure women are safe at work.

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Tony Burke MP, is separately progressing the inclusion of a prohibition on sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

The Government would like to thank all victim-survivors who came forward to share their stories and to inform the Respect@Work Report.

The Government expects that the bill will be referred to a Senate Committee for inquiry. The Government looks forward to engaging through the Attorney-General’s Department with that important Parliamentary process.

If you need immediate assistance or support you can contact 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732.