Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced that employers who do not meet the new laws to prevent sexual harassment will be named by Australia’s new human rights watchdog. The new national law introduces a positive duty for employers to prevent harassment. This is the recent move by the federal government to introduce all recommendations of the Respect@Work report conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. Jenkins says that naming employers that fail to meet this standard is not shaming but a chance to educate.
Unions, lawyers and advocates are in support of reform to laws on sexual harassment. However, there is a call for the Albanese government to protect sexual harassment claimants by requiring employers to cover their own legal costs in court proceedings even if they win. The burden would still be on the employer to cover all costs if they lose. A letter was addressed to the Attorney General and Minister For Women critiquing the “costs neutrality” model and its adverse effects for claimants.
This week Kate Jenkins announced the Respect@Work website that will publish resources on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace. The resources are free to access and use. They are designed for employers and employees. The resources include training materials, videos and tools for assessing the safety of the workplace. The website is the initiative of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Respect@Work Council.
Last week, Qantas pilot Davida Forshaw filed a sexual harassment claim against her employer. Her claim is that she received a poor performance review after rejecting sexual advances from an airline captain. Another senior pilot then raised allegations of sexism and harassment that occurred in the cockpit. Qantas has defended its workplace practices, saying that inequality is not tolerated and that the levels of harassment reflect the national averages. However, a review conducted in 2019 by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner found that a quarter of female pilots reported sexual harassment within the year.
The Australian Disability Strategy National Forum was held on 2 and 3 November. Among the speakers were advocates, athletes and politicians. The main topics were housing and employment, particularly the interplay between the two. People with disabilities are often discriminated against in the housing market. Panellists noted that an important part of housing accessibility and affordability is access to employment. The speakers emphasised the need for workplaces to be accessible and flexible so that people with disabilities can gain meaningful work with a living wage.