Australia vows to tackle sexual harassment at work after backlash

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he would remove exemptions for judges and politicians from sexual harassment laws.
  • The change is part of a broad overhaul of the way Australia handles gender-related workplace complaints.
  • It is designed to empower complainants and force bosses to be proactive in stamping out discrimination.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he would remove exemptions for judges and politicians from sexual harassment laws, as his government tries to contain a backlash over allegations of sexual misconduct in politics.

The change is part of a broad overhaul of the way Australia handles gender-related workplace complaints, designed to empower complainants and force bosses to be proactive in stamping out discrimination.

It was among 55 recommendations in a report by the country's Sex Discrimination Commissioner early last year, all of which Morrison said he would now act on.

Here are some of the report's key recommendations:

Changing the definition of "workplace participant" and "workplace" in gender discrimination law to mean all scenarios "including paid and unpaid workers, and those who are self-employed"; removing the "exemption of state public servants".

* Conduct a survey every four years to monitor rates and trends in sexual harassment complaints. Improve data-sharing between agencies which handle complaints.

* Introduce education about gender discrimination for young working people, school students, university employees, people working for complaints handling organisations, members of the judiciary and company directors.

* A "positive duty" on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate gender discrimination.

* Statute of limitations between alleged sex discrimination incident to actionable complaint raised to two years, from six months.

* Wording of workplace laws updated so that "sexual harassment" is prohibited and can be grounds for dismissal.



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