What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 6 February 2023 – 12 February 2023

Parliament Releases New Code of Conduct to Improve Workplace Safety

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released a statement this week in support of the introduction of a code of conduct at Parliament House. The endorsed code of conduct creates a standard of behaviour for “all parliamentarians and staffers.” Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins stated that the code “sets an example for workplaces across the country”. The new code of conduct is the first in Australia’s history to apply to the parliamentarian workplace. The code is intended to “set the standard” for all workplaces across Australia. While Jenkins acknowledges that “no industry is immune from workplace sexual harassment”, she further states that “employers no longer have any excuse.”

WorkSafe Initiates Legal Action Against Mining Giant Fortescue Metals Group

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has been charged with 34 counts of refusing or failing to provide documents in relation to a WorkSafe sexual harassment case. The charges relate to sexual harassment allegations at three mining sites in Western Australia, including Solomon, Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek. The matter has been listed for 17 March 2023 before the Perth Magistrates Court for mention. The Work Health and Safety Act 2020 authorises inspectors to request documents unless there is a reasonable excuse for not supplying the documentation.

Convicted Australian Doctors Remain Registered

A six-month investigation found that 160 Australian doctors remain registered despite convictions and filings of sexual harassment. The nature of the convictions include confirmed cases of “paedophilia, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment… towards both patients and colleagues.” One particular case lasted four years and involved an assault of a 12-year-old girl. The investigation has resulted in a Senate inquiry into the Australian Health Practitioners Regulations Board (AHPRA), with the board’s transparency being called into question.

Australia Introduces Gender Pay Gap Bill

On 8 February 2023, the Australian government introduced to Parliament the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023. The Bill aims to increase transparency by authorising the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to release gender pay gap reports. Further, the Bill repeals the “minimum standard” in the Workplace Gender Equality Act 201, instead requiring “higher gender equality standards”. The Bill has successfully implemented regulations required by Respect@Work in order “to prevent and address workplace sex-based harassment and discrimination.”