Respect at Work reforms

On 11 September 2021 the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect at Work Amendment Act) took effect. Find out what this means for you.

Summary of changes

The Respect at Work Amendment Act aims to make sure more workers are protected and empowered to address unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Respect at Work Amendment Act has changed the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) by:

  • introducing definitions of ‘sexually harass’ and ‘sexually harassed at work’
  • expanding the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to allow it to make orders to stop sexual harassment at work
  • clarifying that sexual harassment in connection with an employee’s employment can be a valid reason for dismissal.

The Respect at Work Amendment Act also enables an employee to access their compassionate leave entitlement if the employee or their current spouse or de facto partner has a miscarriage.

Find out more about compassionate leave entitlements at Compassionate and bereavement leave.

What is sexual harassment?

The Respect at Work Amendment Act has defined sexual harassment under the FW Act as:

  • an unwelcome sexual advance
  • an unwelcome request for sexual favours
  • other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person.

To be sexual harassment, it has to be reasonable to expect that there is a possibility that the person being harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the behaviour.

For more information, visit Sexual harassment in the workplace.

Orders to stop sexual harassment

The FWC has the jurisdiction to allow an eligible worker who believes that they’ve been sexually harassed at work by one or more individuals to apply for an order to stop the sexual harassment from 11 November 2021.

The laws to stop sexual harassment under the FW Act only apply to certain workers in Australia. The new provisions apply to:

  • an employee
  • a contractor or subcontractor
  • an employee of a contractor or subcontractor
  • an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work in a business or undertaking
  • an outworker
  • an apprentice or trainee
  • an intern
  • a student gaining work experience
  • some volunteers.

Find out more about orders to stop sexual harassment on the Fair Work Commission’s website external-icon.png.

Serious misconduct and dismissal

The Respect at Work Amendment Act clarifies that sexual harassment in connection with employment can be a valid reason for dismissal.

For more information, see:

Related information