**Warning: this article discusses sexual harassment and may be distressing to some people**
Did you know that employers can now be held liable for sexual harassment occurring in their workplace?.
In December 2022, the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (Cth) amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) by introducing a positive duty on employers to prevent acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation from occurring in the workplace or in relation to a person’s employment.
Employers’ responsibilities include:
- Taking all reasonable steps to prevent bullying.
- Reporting any workplace incidents to Work Health & Safety.
- Having worker’s compensation insurance to protect workers against workplace injuries.
- Not victimising a worker if they choose to exercise their workplace rights.
What should employers be doing?
Provided an employer has taken reasonable steps to minimise the possibility of workplace harassment taking place, the liability will lie solely with the person who harasses or bullies another employee or person.
Steps that employers can introduce to their workplace to help minimise their risk may include:
- Implementing a sexual harassment policy.
- Training employees on how to identify and deal with sexual harassment.
- Creating an internal procedure for dealing with workplace complaints.
- Requiring senior management to frequently monitor the workplace environment and culture.
- Regularly review and update policies and procedures to ensure they adhere to the law and employees agree to them.
A new website, respectatwork.gov.au (”Respect@Work“), has been set up to provide information and resources to individuals and employers regarding the new regime. We recommend that employers make use of the Respect@Work resource hub and in particular review the Good Practice Indicators Framework for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment.
The Australian Rights Commission has been granted new regulatory powers to investigate and enforce employers’ compliance with these positive duties. These regulatory powers will come into effect in December 2023, so employers should act now to make any necessary changes.
If you are an employer that is unsure about your responsibilities and want to minimise your risk then don’t hesitate to contact NextGen Legal. We can help assist with implementing harassment and discrimination policies as well as provide trainng for employees on how to identify workplace incidents. Contact us on (03) 9039 2142 to book an appointment.