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The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 has been enacted to amend a suite of legislation relating to discrimination. These amendments follow the Respect @Work Report (“the Report”) which was handed down in March 2020 following the Respect @Work National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment. The amendments outlined in The Bill reflect 6 of the 55 recommendations provided by the Report. The amendment bill has introduced the following changes to strengthen previous law around sex-based discrimination within the workplace, and ensure the ongoing problem of such behaviours within the workplace is eliminated.

Hostile Work Environment on the Basis of Sex

The amendments include a provision prohibiting conduct that creates a hostile work environment for employees on the basis of their sex. The conduct amounting to a hostile work environment is not limited to specific conduct directed at an individual. Behaviour such as displaying obscene or pornographic materials, general sexual banter, innuendo or offensive jokes may amount to prohibited conduct.

Positive Duty to Eliminate Unlawful Sex Discrimination

The amendment bill has created a positive duty for employers to introduce reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination. These changes to the legislation mean that employers are expected to eliminate behaviours such as those outlined in relation to a hostile work environment, as well as any form of sexual harassment. These new measures could be implemented by an employer by way of an updated policies and procedures relating to sex discrimination within the workplace. When determining whether an employer has complied with this duty the size of their business, the businesses resources and practicability of the measures being introduced will be considered.

New Powers Granted to the Human Rights Commissioners

To ensure enforcement of the positive duty to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination, the power to perform inquiries into workplaces has been granted to the Human Rights Commissioner. The Commissioner has also been granted the ability to inquire into suspected systemic unlawful discrimination within a workplace.

Representative Bodies Ability to Initiate Complaints

The amendments have granted representative bodies such as trade unions or advocacy groups the ability to commence proceedings against workplaces who have broken the law relating to unlawful sex discrimination affecting one or more persons within that workplace.

Further Protections for Victims of Sex-Based Discrimination

A series of amendments have been made order to offer further protections against victims of sex-based harassment within the workforce, including the strengthening of laws that allow individuals to pursue civil action against those responsible for victimisation on the basis of sex within the workforce, a lower threshold to establish whether such harassment has occurred, and the removal of the timeframes previously in place to lodge a complaint relating to sex-based discrimination.

Concerned about discrimination or sexual harassment in your workplace? Contact our Corporate and commercial team on (02) 9964 0499.

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The articles on this website comprise legal general information and not legal advice. The general information presented here must not be relied upon without legal advice being sought. In the event that you wish to obtain legal advice on the contents of this general information you may do so by contacting our office or your existing solicitor.