A win for respect: New law makes women safer at work

2 December 2022

Professionals Australia has welcomed the passage of the Respect@Work Bill, which amends the Sex Discrimination Act to reflect recommendations of the Respect@Work report, introducing a positive duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment at work.

CEO Jill McCabe said the new federal laws will drive positive change in workplaces , and addressthe underlying problem of putting the onus people who have experienced harassment to raise complaints.

“We know that only 17 per cent of those sexually harassed at work feel safe reporting it, so to put the onus on those who have been subjected to harassment is unacceptable and enables harassment to go unchecked in the workplace,” she said.

“These new laws mean that employers must now take proactive steps to manage the risk of sexual harassment, just like we see in other areas of occupation health and safety.

“The laws will also help prevent harassment by customers or clients, reducing violence at work, which is so often endured by people in customer facing roles like pharmacy.

“We know that professionals in engineering, science, ICT and pharmacy, among others, face challenges in addressing harassment at work.

“Women in these industries want employers to step up and create good workplace cultures and safe environments for them and their colleagues.

“Our most recent report on the experience of women in STEM workforces found that one in three women (33%) had been harassed at work.

“Of those who had been harassed, 46% took no action and only 21% sought advice, while 17% instead left the workplace.

“This is what happens when there is no positive duty on employers – the burden and consequences fall on women to deal with it themselves.”

“We congratulate the Federal Government for delivering on their commitment to take action to protect women at work. “This is a significant step forward for women around Australia and a huge win for the union movement which has campaigned on this issue for many years.”

Media Contact: Tim O’Halloran 0409 059 617