New workplace sexual harassment laws
Published 6 March 2023
Workplace sexual harassment is prohibited under the Fair Work Act from 6 March 2023.
These new provisions expand protections from sexual harassment to protect workers, future workers and people conducting a business or undertaking.
These changes are part of the Australian Government’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay legislation.
On this page:
The Fair Work Act has been amended to prohibit (or ban) sexual harassment in connection with work, including in the workplace. These changes apply from 6 March 2023 and expand the previous protections around sexual harassment in the workplace.
The protection applies to:
- workers including employees, contractors, work experience students and volunteers
- future workers
- people conducting a business or undertaking.
The protection won’t apply to sexual harassment that starts before 6 March 2023.
A person or company can be liable for sexual harassment conducted by an employee or agent in connection with work, including if they were involved in the employer’s contravention. This applies unless the person or company can prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment.
Read more about the expanded protections from workplace sexual harassment at Sexual harassment in the workplace. You’ll find information on:
- understanding sexual harassment in the workplace
- managing sexual harassment in the workplace
- taking action in the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) and via other government bodies.
The Commission now has greater powers to deal with workplace sexual harassment.
In addition to its existing ‘stop sexual harassment order’ powers, the Commission can deal with disputes about sexual harassment by:
- mediation, or
- making a recommendation or expressing an opinion.
Where a dispute can’t be resolved these ways, the Commission may also be able to deal with the dispute by arbitration if the parties agree. If this happens, the Commission can make an order:
- for compensation or lost wages
- requiring a person to do something that’s reasonable to remedy any loss or damage suffered.
Applications to the Commission can be made by:
- a person or group of people alleging sexual harassment (such as a worker or group of workers), or
- an industrial association, such as a union, on behalf of their member or members.
You can learn more sexual harassment and the Commission at Fair Work Commission – Sexual harassment.
Applications may also be able to be made in court in some circumstances.
We (the Fair Work Ombudsman) are the national workplace regulator. We can help with some issues around sexual harassment at work usually once an employee has already sought help, such as from the Commission. This includes:
- investigating a workplace for non-compliance with laws prohibiting workplace sexual harassment
- taking action when someone doesn’t comply with a Commission stop sexual harassment order (see above for more information).
If you believe you have been sexually harassed in connection with work, you should make an application to the Commission in the first instance. See the information above for how to do this.
We also have the power to start court proceedings for alleged breaches of laws prohibiting sexual harassment. See Fixing a workplace problem for information and resources to help resolve workplace problems. You can read our Compliance and Enforcement Policy for information about how we perform our compliance and enforcement role.
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 may involve 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 it to the police, access Police contacts for sexual assault.
Sexual assault support services
1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.
Mental health support services
24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention
Ph: 13 11 14
Mental health support
Ph: 1300 224 636
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