New sexual harassment protections take effect

Published 10 September 2021 | Updated 15 September 2021

On 10 September 2021, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect at Work amendments) took effect. The Respect at Work amendments update the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) to:

  • address sexual harassment at work
  • include miscarriage as a reason to access compassionate leave.

We're currently reviewing the information on our website in light of these changes. We'll update our information soon. We encourage you to keep checking back here for updates.

In the meantime, subscribe to email updates and we'll email you when we've updated our information.

Find out more about these changes, and where to get support if you need it, below.

Overview of changes

The changes aim to make sure that workers are protected and empowered to address sexual harassment at work.

The changes include:

  • introduction of stop sexual harassment orders
  • defining sexual harassment
  • clarifying that sexual harassment at work can be a valid reason for dismissal
  • compassionate leave entitlements are now available for miscarriage.

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Stop sexual harassment orders

The Respect at Work amendments expand the existing FW Act provisions dealing with orders to stop bullying at work to include orders to stop sexual harassment. An eligible worker who believes that they’ve been sexually harassed at work can apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the sexual harassment.

Eligible workers can make these applications from 11 November 2021.

The FWC will have more information about eligibility and making these applications soon.

You can also find out more about managing Sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Sexual harassment definition

The Respect at Work amendments introduce a definition of sexual harassment into the FW Act.

A person sexually harasses another person if they:

  • make an unwelcome sexual advance
  • make an unwelcome request for sexual favours
  • engage in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

For a person to have sexually harassed someone, it has to be reasonable to expect that in the situation, there’s a possibility that their behaviour would offend, humiliate or intimidate the other person.

Find out more about Sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Serious misconduct and dismissal

The Respect at Work amendments confirm that sexual harassment at work is a form of serious misconduct and can be a valid reason for dismissal under the FW Act.

Serious misconduct can result in dismissal without notice.

For more information see:

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Miscarriage and compassionate leave

The Respect at Work Amendments extended compassionate leave to include miscarriage. Employees can take up to two days of paid compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) if they or their current spouse or de facto partner has a miscarriage.

Employees are also entitled to compassionate leave if they experience a stillbirth or death of a child. Another employee may also be entitled to take compassionate leave if the infant was, or would have been, an immediate family or household member of the employee.

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

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Getting help

If you think you have been sexually harassed at work, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission external-icon.png or contact your relevant state or territory anti-discrimination body. A solicitor, advocate or union may also be able to make a complaint on your behalf.

If you think your employer has taken adverse action against you, for example because you reported sexual harassment at work, you can contact us or find out more on protections at work.

You can also contact your state workplace health and safety body for help. Find out who to contact at Related sites.

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Support services

If you feel unsafe now, phone 000.

If there is no immediate danger but you need police assistance, phone 131 444.

You can contact the police about any assault that involves criminal conduct.

Contacting the police

Some forms of sexual harassment are criminal conduct.

If you have experienced sexual assault and feel you would like to make a complaint or report to the police, click here for the relevant state and territory police contacts external-icon.png .

Sexual assault support services

If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment, you can contact 1800RESPECT external-icon.png (Phone: 1800 737 732) for counselling, support and information, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mental health support services

Lifeline

24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention.

Ph: 13 11 14

Website: www.lifeline.org.au/ external-icon.png

Beyondblue

Mental health support.

Ph: 1300 224 636

Website: www.beyondblue.org.au/ external-icon.png

Miscarriage support services

Sands

An independent organisation that provides support for newborn death, stillbirth and miscarriage

Ph: 1300 308 307

Website: https://www.sands.org.au/ external-icon.png

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