The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Act) received Royal Assent on 10 September 2021 and commenced operation on 11 September 2021.
This legislation also amends:
- the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (“AHRC Act“).
- the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“FW Act“).
- the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (“SD Act“).
The new laws aim to combat the prevalence of sexual harassment in Australia by clarifying and simplifying sexual harassment laws, and encouraging meaningful cultural change in workplaces.
The major changes include:
- compassionate leave for miscarriages;
- prohibiting harassment on the ground of sex will be expressly included in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984;
- sexual harassment will be expressly made a “valid reason” for dismissal under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
- The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment makes sexual harassment a sackable offence and makes it clearer, under the act, that harassing a person on the basis of sex is prohibited.
- Instead of six months, employees will now have 24 months to lodge a sexual harassment complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
- The Act also includes a recognition that sexual harassment is a workplace health and safety issue, like bullying, which means victims can apply for an “order to stop sexual harassment” through the Fair Work Commission.
- The new legislation also broadens the definition of what constitutes work and by whom, meaning more vulnerable workers will be covered, as well as people working from home. Employers were trying to prove someone wasn’t at work when they were harassed so there is now a clear understanding that work is pretty much when you’re doing work, at any time, in any place.
epar is working on support documents to communicate this important information to all of your staff. Some of this information will be in the form of Digital Alerts that can be sent to all staff via the Connect 2.0 platform and tracked through your epar Reporting database. This will provide immediate evidence that you are communicating important information across your business.