As foreshadowed in our client alert Proposed reforms to tackle sexual harassment, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 has been introduced into Parliament.
The Bill implements six of the 55 recommendations for legislative reform to address sexual harassment in the workplace made by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, in the Respect@Work Report published in 2020.
The Bill makes the following amendments to the Fair Work Act:
As a separate matter unrelated to the Respect@Work Report, the Bill also expands the scope of the entitlement to compassionate leave to allow paid compassionate leave to be accessed (unpaid for casual employees) if an employee, or their spouse or de facto partner, has a miscarriage before a gestation period of 20 weeks.
The Bill proposes the following amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act:
Finally, the Bill proposes amendments to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act in relation to the Commission’s role in hearing sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination and victimisation complaints. These amendments:
The Bill has been referred to the Senate Employment and Education Committee for review. The Committee is accepting submissions until 9 July 2021 and will publish its advisory report on the Bill by 6 August 2021. The Bill will then be considered by Parliament. The ACTU has indicated that its position is that the Bill falls short of the recommendations needed to effectively reform sexual harassment laws.
In anticipation of the Bill being passed, employers should prepare to review their workplace policies and complaint handling processes to ensure they will comply with the new laws, as well as prepare to provide training on the new laws to all workers and officers to ensure all employees and officers understand their obligations. JWS is currently offering comprehensive training sessions about the key considerations for employers in light of Respect@Work Report and the related legislative changes and to help ensure compliance with work health and safety and discrimination legislation.
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