Submission on the Respect at Work Bill 2022

DCA has made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in response to the Inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022.

We welcome the changes proposed in the Anti‑Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 and commend the Government’s efforts in taking action in this area.

As this Bill will implement recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25 and 43 of Respect@Work, we support the Bill.

Specifically, DCA supports the following proposals under the Bill:

  1. Subjecting a person to a hostile workplace environment on the ground of sex

DCA supports the new provision in the SD Act to prohibit conduct that subjects another person to a workplace environment that is hostile on the ground of sex (recommendation 16(c) of the Respect@Work Report).

  1. Positive duty to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination

DCA strongly supports the insertion of a new provision in the SD Act to introduce a positive duty on all employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking to take ‘reasonable and proportionate measures’ to prevent unlawful sex discrimination, including sexual harassment (recommendation 17 of the Respect@Work Report).

  1. Enforcement of the positive duty

DCA supports the introduction of provisions that enable the Australian Human Rights Commission to assess and monitor compliance with the positive duty (recommendation 18 of the Respect@Work Report). We believe that an appropriate enforcement mechanism is important to ensure that the introduction of the positive duty is effective in preventing unlawful sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

  1. Systemic inquiries into unlawful discrimination

DCA supports the new provision in the AHRC Act to provide the AHRC with a broad inquiry function to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination or suspected systemic unlawful discrimination (recommendation 19 of the Respect@Work Report). We believe these inquiry powers are important for addressing systemic unlawful discrimination without relying on individual complaints.

  1. Representative applications

DCA supports the amendment to the AHRC Act to enable representative bodies to make representative applications on behalf of people who have experienced unlawful discrimination in the federal courts (recommendation 23 of the Respect@Work Report). We believe this is important given the significant financial and emotional costs for individuals pursuing legal action for discrimination.

  1. Public Sector Reporting to WGEA

DCA supports amendments to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (WGE Act) to bring the Commonwealth public sector into line with the private sector by requiring Commonwealth public sector reporting to WGEA (recommendation 43(a) of the Respect@Work Report)

  1. Victimisation

DCA supports the clarification that victimising conduct can form the basis of a civil action for unlawful discrimination in addition to a criminal complaint under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (AD Act), Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DD Act) and Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RD Act). DCA supports consistency across Commonwealth anti-discrimination Acts.

  1. Timeframes for making a complaint

DCA supports the proposed changes to timeframes for making a complaint under the AD Act, DD Act and RD Act, in order to make these Acts consistent with the timeframes now specified in the SD Act, as recommend in the Respect@Work Report.