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  • The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 represents the Government’s response to the [email protected] Report, which was the product of an 18-month inquiry and recommended 55 areas for law reform to address sexual harassment.
  • In examining some of the key legislative changes, the aims and effectiveness of the reforms are assessed.
  • The failure to include a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment is a missed opportunity to enact meaningful reform aimed at prevention.

The scourge of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has featured prominently in political discourse throughout 2020 and 2021. At the same time, the case for legislative reform aimed at addressing the prevalence of sexual harassment at work has been gaining momentum. In 2020, Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, oversaw the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, the findings of which were published in the [email protected] Report. The Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (‘Respect at Work Act) represents the Government’s response to the [email protected] Report.

The blueprint for reform

The [email protected] Report found Australia’s legal and regulatory systems were no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in tackling sexual harassment and made 55 recommendations for reform, including legislative amendments to simplify legal frameworks, improve access to justice, and facilitate prevention. The Respect at Work Act gives effect to only six of the 55 recommendations.

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