Respect@Work Amendments: A Positive Reframing of Australia’s Sexual Harassment Laws

(2023) 36 Australian Journal of Labour Law 145

28 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2023 Last revised: 7 Dec 2023

See all articles by Belinda Smith

Belinda Smith

The University of Sydney - Faculty of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: November 22, 2023

Abstract

Australian law on sexual harassment has seen many changes in the past few years. This article outlines and analyses these changes in light of the findings of the inquiry that recommended them, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The Report found that sexual harassment was pervasive, harmful and clearly not being addressed by the existing laws, which relied almost entirely on individual victims to lodge formal complaints and bear the burden of driving change. The legislative amendments serve to harmonise and improve individual protections across the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and work health and safety laws. The most significant change, though, is the introduction of a new duty on persons conducting a business or undertaking to take positive steps to prevent harassment and sex discrimination. While its deficiencies are acknowledged, this duty could play an important functional and symbolic role in shifting regulatory attention from victims to their employers and other duty holders, and more importantly, from redressing harm after the fact to preventing it in the first place.

Keywords: sexual harassment, legislation, Australia, work, respect@work, positive duty, gender equality, discrimination

JEL Classification: K31, K39

Suggested Citation

Smith, Belinda M., Respect@Work Amendments: A Positive Reframing of Australia’s Sexual Harassment Laws (November 22, 2023). (2023) 36 Australian Journal of Labour Law 145, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4640802

Belinda M. Smith (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
242
Abstract Views
539
Rank
238,796
PlumX Metrics