Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled his plan for tackling sexual harassment in the workplace in response to the national [email protected] report.
Presenting what he described as the government’s ‘roadmap for respect’, he was joined by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to make the announcement today.
One of the major announcements was that MPs and judges will be subject to the Sex Discrimination Act, making them subject to complaints for sexual discrimination to the Human Rights Commission. It was also announced that sexual harassment will be considered “serious misconduct” in the Fair Work Act.
“Everyone has a right to be safe at work. Sexual harassment must be prohibited in the workplace. Policy must be evidence-based,” Morrison said.
According to the PM, the [email protected] report was considered by cabinet on more than one occasion and further considered by the new cabinet taskforce to promote women’s equality, safety, economic security and wellbeing (which was announced only last week).
All 55 of the [email protected] report recommendations were “either agreed wholly, in part, or in principle, or noted where they are directed to governments or organisations other than the Australian government,” the PM added.
“Nine out of the 20 recommendations that were directly recommended to the commonwealth government, we responded to in last year’s budget […] Now we have completed that process for the other 11 and we have gone further to the full 55 here today,” Morrison said.
The PM outlined five core principles underpinning the government response to the [email protected] report published in 2020 by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. The principles include: the right to be safe at work; the need for evidence-based policy; a focus on prevention; that the law must be clear; and legislative reform must accord with ‘broader legal frameworks and fundamental legal principles’.
Cash highlighted one of the [email protected] recommendations — the introduction of a ‘stop sexual harassment order’ — that the government supported in principle. The AG said the government believed a more simplistic way of making that option available to aggrieved employees was to confirm in the legislation that under a current ‘stop bullying order’ claims of sexual harassment were included.
“[These] are some really practical ways – they may sound simple, but they are a disincentive – today in particular for employers [and] employees, to understand there are consequences. Raise the issue with your employer so it can be dealt with properly,” the AG said.
Cash added that sexual harassment would become a ground for dismissal in Australia and that there would be changes to the Fair Work Act and Human Rights Act.
A package of legislative reforms flowing from today’s announcement are expected to be completed by the end of June. Consultation for drafting the laws will follow.