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Respect@Work implementation highlights

The government is committed to fully implementing all recommendations of the Respect@Work Report and has prioritised action to have the most meaningful and immediate impact to stop sexual harassment and create safer, respectful and more equitable workplaces.

Legislative reforms

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 has commenced and implements 6 outstanding legislative recommendations of the Respect@Work Report (recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19, 23 and 43).

The Act strengthens the legal and regulatory frameworks relating to sex discrimination and shifts the system to focus more on preventative efforts to eliminate sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

The key reform is the introduction of a positive duty in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 that requires employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate certain forms of unlawful sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, as far as possible.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquired into the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 prior to the Bill's passage and released its report on 3 November 2022. The government tabled its response to the Committee's report on 25 January 2023.

Read the report

Read the government response

Cost reforms

The government has referred the issue of costs in discrimination proceedings to the Attorney-General’s Department for review. This review has begun and will be completed by May 2023. The government intends to implement recommendation 25 of the Respect@Work Report by legislating the costs model recommended by this review.

A public consultation process is now open and we invite submissions to determine an appropriate costs protection model for Commonwealth anti-discrimination matters that proceed to court. The costs model to be implemented at the conclusion of this consultation will apply to discrimination proceedings under all Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws before the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Visit our consultation hub to provide a submission

Research into damages and costs

The Respect@Work Report recommended that research be conducted into damages in sexual harassment matters and whether current awards of damages reflect contemporary understandings of the nature, drivers, harms and impacts of sexual harassment (recommendation 24). The report also recommended the insertion of a cost protection provision into the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (recommendation 25).

The Attorney-General's Department undertook an open tender process for research to be conducted on damages awarded and costs orders in Australian unlawful discrimination proceedings, pursuant to recommendations 24 and 25 of the Respect@Work Report. The department commissioned a team from the College of Law at the Australian National University to undertake this work. The primary research team consisted of Emerita Professor Margaret Thornton FASSA, FAAL, honorary lecturer Mr Kieran Pender and Ms Madeleine Castles.

Read Damages and Costs in Sexual Harassment Litigation: A Doctrinal, Qualitative and Quantitative Study

Respect@Work website

The new Respect@Work website brings together a comprehensive set of resources for employers and workers. It includes best-practice guides, training and education materials, workplace-assessment tools, information, videos and advice.

The Respect@Work website and its associated resources implements recommendations 9, 48, 51 and 52 of the Respect@Work Report.

View the Respect@Work website

The Good Practice Indicators Framework for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment

The framework contains intended outcomes and indicators of good practice for employers with respect to preventing and responding to sexual harassment. These indicators capture the factors likely to lead to respectful and inclusive workplaces which minimise the risk of sexual harassment. The framework also includes both 'simple' and 'mature' measurements, allowing employers of different sizes to assess their performance against each indicator.

The framework implements recommendation 46 of the Respect@Work Report.

View the Good Practice Indicators Framework on the Respect@Work website

Guidelines on the Use of Confidentiality Clauses in the Resolution of Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaints

These guidelines provide principles to guide the consideration of the use of a confidentiality clause in a settlement agreement concerning a workplace sexual harassment claim. The guidelines can assist a person who made the allegation of sexual harassment, as well as employers, alleged harassers, employer organisations, unions, legal practitioners, mediators, insurers and anyone else involved in the process of resolving a workplace sexual harassment complaint.

These guidelines implement recommendation 38 of the Respect@Work Report.

View the Confidentiality Clause Guidelines on the Respect@Work website

Related links

Confidentiality Clause Guidelines Fact Sheet for Small Business

Confidentiality Clause Guidelines Fact Sheet for Individuals

Confidentiality Clause Guidelines Fact Sheet for Lawyers