Sexual Harassment Obligations for Employers

On 6 March 2023 Fair Work Act 2009 reforms prohibiting sexual harassment in connection with work came into effect. These amendments also:

  • Impose positive obligations on employers to take “reasonable and proportionate measures” to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination, including sexual harassment in the workplace, as far as possible; and
  • Gives individuals who allege that they have been sexually harassed in connection with work, access to file an application with the Fair Work Commission to:
    • hear the matter and issue a stop sexual harassment order; or
    • either deal with the dispute or refer the matter to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia.

The new provisions align with Respect@Work recommendations and are intended to complement and not replace the existing prohibition on sexual harassment in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) or state or territory legislation.

These new laws apply to sexual harassment that occurs on or after 6 March 2023. Practically, this means the new provisions will not apply to sexual harassment of a worker if the sexual harassment occurred before the commencement date or is part of a course of conduct that began before the commencement of the new provisions, even if that conduct continues after commencement of the new provisions. In either of these situations, the worker would need to pursue a claim under laws that were in place prior to new provisions taking effect, including the stop sexual harassment order provisions in the FW Act.

Reach out to the HIES team with any queries about these reforms. We also encourage all members and clients to critically review internal policies and practices to ensure currency with the new laws and that reasonable and proportionate measures are being taken to manage the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace. HIES can assist with the process if required, or if you’re starting from scratch, why not purchase our Respectful Workplace Policy.

You can contact the HIES Team at [email protected] or on 07 3386 6488.