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.
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.
The government has referred the issue of costs in unlawful 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.
Public consultation will commence in February 2023.
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.
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.
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.
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.