Australian workplaces will be required by law to have protections against sexual harassment and ensure gender equality after parliament agreed to reforms.
From next year, employers will need to take reasonable steps to end sexual discrimination and harassment in their workplace and achieve gender equality.
National Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins – whose landmark Respect@Work report recommended the reforms – said the laws would “fundamentally change” how people are protected from workplace sexual harassment.
“It changes our settings from being reactive to also being proactive, so that employers are required to take meaningful action to prevent harassment from occurring,” she said.
“It shifts the emphasis from a complaints-based model to one where employers must take action, and continuously assess and evaluate whether they are meeting the requirements of the duty.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the laws represented a new chapter in Australia’s national story.
“The last two years have been a real reckoning in this country. Australian women have stood up … and courageously and emphatically declared: enough is enough,” Mr Albanese said.
“We are a great country but there’s an even greater Australia within our reach, if we only dare to extend ourselves a little.”
The laws will take effect in late-2023 to give employers time to adjust their practices.
But Ms Jenkins urged workplaces to start implementing changes sooner rather than later.
A website launched by the commission earlier this month provides information and training for workplaces to help meet their new obligations.
“These important reforms are timely and should be considered by state and territory governments to achieve greater harmonisation of sexual harassment legislation as part of any upcoming legislative reviews,” Ms Jenkins said.