By Smita Menon

On 10 September 2021 the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect at Work Amendment Act) took effect. This amendment act aims to make sure more workers are protected and empowered to address unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace.

The act has made several significant changes to its legislation:

  1. Prohibits sex-based harassment
  2. Expands Coverage of Sex Discrimination Act
  3. Simplifies processes for complaints
  4. Availability of “stop orders”
  5. Sexual harassment can be a valid reason for dismissal
  6. Miscarriage leave

New sexual harassment protections take effect | Fair Work Ombudsman


#Metoo and #TimesUp movements have triggered the government to bring about a new approach to better prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace.

What is sexual harassment?

The Respect at Work Amendment Act has defined sexual harassment under the FW Act as:

  • an unwelcome sexual advance
  • an unwelcome request for sexual favours
  • other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person

Sexual harassment in the workplace | Fair Work Ombudsman

What are the changes?

  1. Modified the existing anti-bullying regime to enable workers to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an “order to stop sexual harassment” in the workplace.
  2. Stating in the unfair dismissal provisions that sexual harassment can be a valid reason for dismissal.
  3. Allowing employees who have a miscarriage (or their spouse or de facto partner) to access the minimum compassionate leave entitlement of two days’ paid leave (unpaid for casuals).
  4. Prohibiting harassment on the ground of sex.
  5. Expanding coverage of the Sexual Discrimination Act to interns, volunteers, self-employed workers, judges, and members of parliament and their staff at all levels of government.
  6. Extending the timeframe to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission from six months to 24 months after the alleged conduct occurred, to enable more historical complaints to be considered.

How does this affect you?

Employers should take this opportunity to review their work policies and procedures based on the changes.

Result of the Act

Overall, this act will impact both employees and employers in Australia. The ACT expands its scope by removing barriers for sexual harassment complaints and promoting clarity among employees.

Employees need to be aware that they have the right to address and eliminate sexual harassment in their workplace and that a legal framework is in place to ensure that all Australians are protected.  The result of the Act will be evident in due course.

A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces | Attorney-General’s Department (ag.gov.au)

If you would like support reviewing the relevant policies and procedure, contact the Integrated HR team to discuss this further.

If you are unsure about how to approach this in your workplace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for advice. Integrated Human Resourcing is an outsourced HR firm based on the Gold Coast, Australia. Contact us here or call 5613 1846 / email: info@humanresourcing.com.au