Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ report on sexual harassment in the workplace in Australia, Respect@Work, was released over a year ago. The government published its response to the report in April, and introduced a bill to legislate some of these changes last month.
Prof Beth Gaze, University of Melbourne, critiques the Bill that amends the Sex Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act against the report recommendations. She commends the major changes that expand the coverage, scope and time limits of the Bill, but is concerned about the language and terms used are likely to reduce the effectiveness of the changes. The SDA changes set a threshold of proving sexual harassment to be “seriously demeaning” which is too is too high, and sexual harassment is not specifically named in the FWA and is not regarded as a workplace health and safety issue or as serious misconduct. The FWA offers no protection against sexual harassment by a work colleague that occurs outside of the work environment.
The Bill needs further changes to address these shortcomings.