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An important milestone: The Respect@Work Bill

December 14, 2022   Philip EvangelouZhi Xi Zhang

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 passed both houses of Parliament on 28 November. It received royal assent shortly after on 12 December.

Why is it important?

The Law Council of Australia considered the passing of the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legilsation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill (the Bill) as a significant step towards implementing the remaining recommendations contained in the Respect@Work Report. 

This is aimed at further eliminating sexual harassment and sex discrimination, remaining ‘unfortunately … far too commonplace”.

Key Amendments 

  • A positive duty imposed on employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to ‘eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sex-based harassment, hostile environments, and victimisation at work’. 
  • Prohibition against conduct contributing to sexually hostile workplace. The new Act will be more expansive in its coverage, ‘conduct such as displaying obscene or pornographic materials’ may be penalised. 
  • A provision enabling a representative body to lodge a complaint on behalf of one or more persons. This will operate in addition to class action provisions under Part IVA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth). 

Other Amendments

  • Monitoring and enforcement power is conferred to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in relation to the positive duty. 
  • The AHRC is provided with greater inquiry function in relation to systematic (including suspected) unlawful discrimination.  
  • The timeframe for making complaints in relation to age, disability and race discrimination is extended from 6 to 24 months. 
  • The Commonwealth Public sector is now made in line with the private sector through the requirement to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. 
  • Express clarifications of victimising conduct forming the basis for civil action in addition to criminal were included. 
  • The threshold for establishing ‘harassment on the ground of sex’ is lowered through the removal of the requirement that the conduct needs to be “seriously” demeaning. 
  • The objects of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) were amended from ‘equality of opportunity’ to providing for ‘substantive equality’ between men and women. 

What does this mean for your organisation?

A 12 month transitional period will commence from Royal Assent, this is especially relevant to the positive duty. The AHRC’s monitoring and enforcement function would take effect after the transitional period. As such, organisations should review and update their governance structures and frameworks accordingly within this period, to avoid any breaches under the new Act. 

If you require assistance in navigating these changes OpenLegal is here to help! Just reach out to us at 1300 337 997 or

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.

About Zhi Xi Zhang

Zhi Xi ZhangZhi Xi is currently studying her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney. Her key areas of interest include commercial law and contracts.