Changes to sexual harassment legislation – what you need to know…

In line with the Secure Jobs, Better Pay legislation, the Fair Work Act has been amended to increase protection from sexual harassment in the workplace. It is important that businesses and workers are aware of the changes that came into effect on 6 March 2023.

The Fair Work Act now prohibits sexual harassment in connection with work, including the workplace.

This change applies to anyone conducting business in a workplace including employees, contractors, future workers, work experience students, and volunteers.

Notably, liability for sexual harassment committed by an employee or a person in connection with work extends to a company or person, including if they were involved in the employer’s contravention, unless it is evident appropriate actions were taken to prevent the sexual harassment.

The Fair Work Commission’s capacity to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace has also increased, enabling the FWC to deal with disputes by conciliation, mediation or by making a recommendation or providing an opinion. The FWC has the power to manage unresolved disputes by way of arbitration if agreed. This can include by order of compensation or lost wages, directing a reasonable resolve for loss or damages suffered.

Support regarding sexual harassment in the workplace can be provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman, which includes investigating non-compliance with workplace sexual harassment laws and taking action if a sexual harassment order has been breached.

More information regarding sexual harassment in the workplace can be found here.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious and highly sensitive matter and there are a number of services available to assist people who have experienced it, including:

Police – phone 000 if you are feeling unsafe or 131 444 if you require police assistance

1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) – a service providing counselling, information and support

Lifeline – phone 13 11 14 for crisis support intervention

Beyond Blue – phone 1300 224 636 for mental health support

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