Respect@Work response

Public news

The Morrison Government has introduced legislation into the Senate that amends the Fair Work Act and Sex Discrimination Act to respond to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' landmark Respect@Work report, which includes two days paid compassionate leave for workers who suffer miscarriages.The Morrison Government has introduced legislation into the Senate that amends the Fair Work Act and Sex Discrimination Act to respond to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' landmark Respect@Work report, which includes two days paid compassionate leave for workers who suffer miscarriages.

The Bill's explanatory memorandum says the legislation varies the existing entitlement to compassionate leave under the Fair Work Act "to include miscarriage as a permissible occasion".

"This will enable an employee to take up to two days of paid compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) if the employee, or employee’s current spouse or de facto partner, has a miscarriage," it says.

The Morrison Government's response to the Respect@Work report said it would amend the Sex Discrimination Act to align it with model OHS laws and to make it easier to understand and use.

The Government's response said the changes to the Fair Work Act would extend to:

  • clarifying that an anti-bullying order is available in the context of sexual harassment;
  • amending the Fair Work Act's s387 to clarify that sexual harassment can be conduct amounting to a valid reason for dismissal in determining whether a dismissal is harsh, unjust or unreasonable; and
  • changing the definition of "serious misconduct" to include sexual harassment.
  • Respect@Work recommended further amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to introduce a positive duty on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation.

    But the Government has baulked at accepting that recommendation. The Government's response to the report argues that employers already have a duty to ensure that all persons in the workplace are not exposed to health and safety risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, and this included the risk of being sexually harassed.

    It said a "positive duty already exists" and the government will "assess whether such amendments would create further complexity, uncertainty or duplication in the overarching legal framework."

    If members need assistance with concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace or want to arrange training for their staff, please contact the WR team on wr@mtasant.com.au, or on 8291 2000.