Respect@Work legislation

Recently, we wrote to you about the federal government’s failure to act on several critical recommendations in the Respect@Work Report, led by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. You can read about our response to the deficient Sexual Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 here.

Despite calls from the union movement to enact all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, or legislate for 10 days paid Family and Domestic Violence leave, the Bill was passed on 2 September 2021.

While we will continue to advocate for better workplace rights and workplace health and safety rights for working women, here's what you need to know about the key legislative changes that have just passed:

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) will have the power to make anti-sexual harassment orders from November 2021, under the Respect@Work legislation that was recently enacted.

The FWC will be able to make an order to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as:

  • a person making an unwelcome sexual advance; or unwelcome request for sexual favours; or engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; and
  • that a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Victims of workplace sexual harassment will be able to apply to the FWC for an order to stop sexual harassment. If the FWC is satisfied that the victim has been sexually harassed at work, and there is a risk that the sexual harassment will continue, it can make an order to stop the sexual harassment. However, the FWC will not be able to award any compensation, or penalty.

The FWC can make an order in response to a single act of sexual harassment, unlike bullying which requires repeated instances for the FWC to make an order.

The Respect@Work legislation provides that sexual harassment can be a valid reason for dismissal. It also provides for two days compassionate leave if an employee or their partner has a miscarriage.

Need to contact us?

[If you require specific advice tailored to your individual circumstances of employment, our Workplace Advice and Support team is here to help you.

Please contact us today:
If you are covered by an enterprise agreement, you can also contact your local workplace delegate, organiser or industrial officer for assistance. 

This publication is considered general information only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice. If you require advice on your specific situation, please contact WAS for further assistance.