Urgent law reform needed to prevent sexual harassment at work

RLC has signed a joint statement alongside a coalition of 60 groups and individuals calling on the federal government to act now to prevent sexual harassment at work.

In April last year, the government announced it would adopt "wholly, in part, or in principle," the 55 recommendations set out in the landmark Australian Human Rights Commission Respect@Work report investigating sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

While sexual harassment is pervasive across all industries and all employment levels, it is not inevitable. We have the power to prevent it.

The Power2Prevent Coalition, who issued the statement, is a group of more than 60 diverse community organisations, unions, academics, peak bodies, health professionals, lawyers and victim-survivors, including RLC and our joint initiative with Kingsford Legal Centre and Inner City Legal Centre, the Employment Rights Legal Service (ERLS).

Through our casework, we see the effects of sexual harassment on people every day and how our systems are not responding to the issues.

Two years on from the initial release of Respect@Work, key recommendations in the report have still not been actioned. 

Power2Prevent has issued a joint statement calling on the Australian Government to implement all remaining recommendations of the Respect@Work report in full, before the impending federal election in May 2022.

This includes urgently amending our laws to create the following eight changes:

  1. Confirmation that one of the objects of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) is substantive equality – Recommendation 16(a)
  2. Amending the Sex Discrimination Act to prohibit the creation of a hostile, sexist working environment – Recommendation 16(c)
  3. A positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate steps to stop sex discrimination and sexual harassment – Recommendation 17
  4. New compliance and investigation powers for the Australian Human Rights Commission to enforce the positive duty – Recommendation 18
  5. A new inquiry power for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to investigate systemic sexual harassment – Recommendation 19
  6. A new process to allow representative bodies to bring actions to court on behalf of people who have been sexually harassed – Recommendation 23
  7. Creating an express prohibition on sexual harassment and an accessible new complaints process in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) – Recommendation 28
  8. A new Work Health and Safety Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment at Work – Recommendation 35

RLC's earlier response to the National Inquiry (Respect@Work) is available here.

The Federal Government’s survey on the consultation on the remaining legislative recommendations in the Respect@Work Report closes 18 March 2022. RLC has submitted our responses to this in-depth survey. We are committed to improving Australian workplaces.

The full joint statement is available for download below.

See also


Respect at Work: Government responds to national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment (April 2021)

Laws failing to protect workers from sexual harassment (March 2020)