Is Labor’s New Bill a Real Step Towards Eliminating Workplace Harassment? Let’s Discuss

Trigger warning: this article contains references to sexual assault.

No one should be subject to being sexually harassed. Not at home, not on the street, not in their workplace, not ever. However, a lot of folks are assaulted at their place of work.

According to Safe Work Australia, one in three people has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. One in three. If you’ve worked in Australia, this number should be disgusting, unacceptable, and probably not all shocking. 

In a righteous move though, the Labor Government is wanting to do something about this unforgivable situation. As per The Guardian, our Federal Government has just introduced an Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment. This update is designed to end sexual harassment in the workplace.

Said legislation is being referred to as the Respect at Work Bill. It’ll implement seven changes that were recommended by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

These changes include putting the onus on the employee to eliminate sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It’ll also give the Australian Human Rights Commission new powers to enforce compliance.

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Additionally, these laws won’t just apply to folks that work in the public sector. They’ll be applicable to anyone in Australia. 

This bill is being endorsed by the Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher. “The widespread nature of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is a national disgrace,” wrote Gallagher on Twitter. “Our Government’s introduction of the Respect at Work Bill today is a step in the right direction in stopping sexual harassment before it starts.”

Moreover, she further outlined her position with the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, and the Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Burke. “Everyone has the right to a safe and respectful workplace,” the three said in a joint statement. “And the fact that workplaces have not been safe or respectful for so many Australians is unacceptable.”

“Sexual harassment is by no means inevitable and the passage of this bill will move Australia forward in our efforts to prevent workplace sexual harassment from happening in the first place.”

The manner in which Labor is approaching this topic is leagues better than just letting the problem fester. They’ve listened to an expert, implemented their advice, and then called it a first step. While the Respect at Work Bill won’t solve Australia’s rampant problems overnight, it’s good to know that the government is taking the issue seriously. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also talk to someone from 1800RESPECT via online chat. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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