The Federal Government intends to introduce a Bill into Parliament giving effect to the outstanding legislative recommendations made by the Respect@Work Report. This was a key election promise made by the ALP before winning Government.

In giving effect to those recommendations the Bill is likely to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to:

  • create a new statutory “positive” duty on employers to prevent unlawful workplace sex discrimination and harassment;
  • make it unlawful to create a hostile working environment based on sex;
  • amend the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) to:
  • confer associated compliance and enforcement powers on the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in relation to the positive duty;
  • provide the AHRC with a broad inquiry function into systemic unlawful discrimination, including systemic sexual harassment; and
  • allow unions to bring representative claims to court consistent with existing provisions allowing representative actions to the AHRC.

Ai Group will examine the details of the Bill and its impact on employers. Ai Group has already expressed concerns about the complex interaction of the outstanding Respect@Work recommendations and recent developments in work health and safety jurisdictions relating to workplace sexual harassment and bullying in Safe Work Australia’s model psycho-social hazard regulation.

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