WLANSW statement on the Federal Government’s response to Respect@Work report and 2020-21 Federal Budget

On 8 October, the Federal Government released its 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement,[1] which sets out five priorities:

  1. To repair and rebuild women’s workforce participation and further close the gender pay gap
  2. To give greater choice and flexibility for families to manage work and care
  3. To support women as leaders and positive role models
  4. To respond to the diverse needs of women
  5. To support women to be safe at work and home.

Priority 5 includes the Government’s preliminary response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s landmark Respect@Work report, which was released in early 2020. The Government acknowledges the findings in Respect@Work that workplace sexual harassment has a profound impact on individuals and is a barrier to women’s workforce participation. However, at this stage the Government believes that it will need time to consider some of the recommendations in Respect@Work which raise complex issues across the various State, Territory and Commonwealth legal and regulatory frameworks.

In the meantime the Government has identified some key initiatives outlined in the 2020 WESS to demonstrate its commitment to addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. The major initiative is the establishment of the Respect@Work Council (as recommended in Recommendation 14 of Respect@Work). The aim of the Respect@Work Council is to facilitate discussion and consideration of the remaining, complex recommendations in Respect@Work and to improve coordination, consistency and clarity in addressing sexual harassment in workplaces. The Respect@Work Council will also:

  • oversee the development of a package of training and education resources on the nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment and the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers;
  • work with stakeholders to tailor those resources to specific workplaces;
  • establish a dedicated online platform will provide free, practical and accessible information and resources to help ensure workplaces are safe and free from sexual harassment; and
  • facilitate a national survey, to be conducted in 2022, which will provide data on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and facilitate monitoring of the impact of implemented measures (as recommended in Recommendation 2 of Respect@Work).

The 2020-21 Federal Budget provided $2.1 million over 3 years from 2021 to establish the Respect@Work Council.

The WLANSW will be writing to Senator the Hon Marise Payne, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women seeking her commitment to the adoption of the other recommendations in the Respect@Work report which call for substantial law reform in regard to sexual harassment at work.

WLANSW has a subcommittee which is working on these issues and members are welcome to join and be involved in this important work.

[1] The WESS is available online:  https://www.pmc.gov.au/news-centre/office-women/2020-women%E2%80%99s-economic-security-statement


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