Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Respect at Work bill does not go far enough: ALHR 

Although the Respect at Work bill “makes a good start”, human rights lawyers have cautioned that it will not go far enough to implement sweeping and widespread reforms necessary to address sex-based harassment without further amendments. 

user iconNaomi Neilson 02 August 2021 Big Law
Respect at Work bill does not go far enough
expand image

The federal government’s Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 has taken on board a number of recommendations put forward by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in the Respect@Work Report to improve responses to sexual harassment but has left out critical amendments. 

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) co-chair of the women’s and girls’ rights committee, Cassandra Bourke, said that the Australian government should make the legislation bolder and remove caveats that limit the goal of achieving substantive equality between women and men across all workplaces. 


“The reforms – if implemented – represent long overdue progress in meeting Australia’s international human rights obligations to provide effective protection for women against sexual harassment in the workplace, recognising it as a form of sex-based discrimination and gender-based violence,” Ms Bourke commented. 

“However, ALHR endorses the position of the Australian Human Rights Commission that to fully and effectively implement the recommendations and meet Australia’s international human rights law obligations, additional amendments are required.”

In addition to making legislation bolder, ALHR has submitted that the bill should provide further clarity and consistency around the limitation period for complaints to be made and extend the operation of the sexual harassment provisions to make clear that they also apply to not-for-profit organisations across numerous industries.

ALHR has also requested more realistic thresholds for the new harassment provision, a duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate steps to prevent sexual harassment, provide costs protections to claimants to reduce the protection barristers and allow unions to bring representative claims to court.

“We hope the committee will listen to the range of submissions from organisations representing women across professions and across the community to further strengthen the bill and bring a lasting change in culture to Australian workplaces,” co-chair of ALHR’s women and girls’ rights committee Leanne Smith said.  

“If ever there was a time for the Australian government to demonstrate its commitment to genuine and systemic change in this country in terms of equality, empowerment and protection for women in the workplace, this is certainly it.”