In brief - The anticipated Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 (Bill), which has been described as 'significantly progressing gender equality', has passed parliament.

The same day the world celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Senate passed the Bill, which takes the next steps to realising Kate Jenkins' Respect@Work recommendations, with minor amendments. These were accepted by the House on 28 November 2022.

Employers' duties regarding unlawful sexual discrimination and hostile workplace environments

Notably, the Bill places a positive duty on employers or persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate unlawful sexual discrimination, including sexual harassment, sex-based harassment, hostile working environments and victimisation, described by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus as the 'cornerstone' of Jenkins' report. 

Other changes include ensuring that employees and workers are not exposed to hostile workplace environments even in situations where conduct is not directed at a particular person, and empowering the Australian Human Rights Commission to inquire into "any matter that may relate to systemic unlawful discrimination", whether it be actual or suspected.

The Senate's amendments take in Senator Jacqui Lambie's proposal to require a review of the Bill to ensure it operates as intended, and also remove the proposed cost-neutrality provisions after concern was raised they could negatively impact claimants. 

Further, it was noted that the Bill is intended to operate concurrently with state and territory Work Health and Safety laws.

For a more detailed look at some of the incoming changes (noting the removal of cost-neutrality provisions), see our September 2022 article Is your workplace prepared to respond to the latest recommendations from the Respect@Work Report? 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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