31 August 2021
The onus should be on workplaces to stamp out sexual harassment, not victims to report it
Diversity Council Australia CEO, Lisa Annese, has urged the government to adopt a more a proactive approach to minimising the risk of sexual harassment occurring in workplaces.
The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 (the Respect at Work Bill) is set to be debated in parliament today, but according to Ms Annese, while a step in the right direction, in its current form the Respect at Work Bill is insufficient to really stamp out sexual harassment.
“DCA was really pleased to see the Government taking action on addressing workplace sexual and sex-based harassment in response to Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report.
“This is an historic opportunity for the Government to take real action on sexual harassment. So, it’s disappointing that the Respect at Work Bill doesn’t implement all of the recommendations outlined in the Respect@Work report.
“We are calling on the Government to reconsider introducing a positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
“While I know that no employer wants more regulation, based on our work with DCA members over many years we believe that a positive duty will focus am employer on actions that will lead to more respectful and inclusive workplace cultures and this will significantly benefit their business”.
“At the moment, we have a system whereby attention is only given to the actions an employer has taken to prevent sexual harassment after a complaint is made.
“Changing the law in this way would incentivise employers to address systemic drivers of sexual harassment and help prevent it occurring in the first place.”
Ms Annese said that the time for taking this action was now.
“I would recommend that the positive duty is included in this version of the bill, because it's an opportunity to do something now. I believe that we can bring businesses along on this journey, and DCA would be very delighted play a role with its members in bringing organisations on the journey of positive duty and helping them understand why this is a good thing for these organisations. I believe that that's an opportunity that we should seize.”
DCA’s views are outlined in our submission to the Inquiry into the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 available on our website at www.dca.org.au.