Sexual harassment and discrimination… what you need to know

Several legislative changes have come into effect recently, resulting in new protections against workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Both the Fair Work Act and Sex Discrimination Act have received updates 

The updates impose a duty on employers to take proactive and meaningful action towards the elimination of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

The Fair Work Act

The most important changes to the Fair Work Act include:  

  • Specific definitions of sexual harassment and the meaning of sexually harassed at work;  
  • Clarification of the meaning of a ‘worker’;  
  • Inclusion of sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal; and 
  • New powers of the Fair Work Commission to grant orders to stop sexual harassment. 

The Sex Discrimination Act

Some of the key changes that have been introduced to the Sex Discrimination Act include: 

  • Prohibition of conduct that results in a hostile workplace environment based on gender; and 
  • New investigatory and compliance powers of the Australian Human Rights Commission (commencing December 2023 to allow employers time to ensure compliance).  

These legislative updates require employers to take steps to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace before it occurs, rather than responding to incidents when they occur. 

For more information about the new legislative changes, see this summary from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

How we can help

To help you stay across these changes, we have revised two of our resources relating to discrimination and workplace conduct to reflect the updated definitions and expanded processes relating to sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination in the workplace.

The two updated resources are:

  • Policy: Harassment and Bullying; and  
  • Policy: EEO, Equity and Diversity.

You can find the updated resources in our Reading Room under the ‘workplace relations‘ -> ‘human resources‘ subtopics. 

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