Workplace discrimination laws strengthened

Woman being harassed by man at work. | Newsreel
New legislation will strengthen Queensland's workplace discrimination laws. | Photo: Andrey Popov (iStock)

Queensland employers will need to be proactive in preventing workplace discrimination under new legislation introduced in the State Parliament.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’ath said the Respect at Work and Other Matters Bill would introduce new prohibitions of harassment on the basis of sex.

Attorney-General D’ath said it would also place a prohibition on subjecting another person to a work environment that is hostile on the ground of sex.

In addition, she said it would place a “positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and other conduct that is unlawful under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991”.

Attorney-General D’ath said national evidence showed female workers were more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, with 89 per cent experiencing sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime and 77 percent of all workers have been sexually harassed in their lifetime.

“Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in the Respect@Work: National Inquiry Report said sexual harassment was a societal issue that impacted productivity.

“The Jenkins report also made clear that harassment in the workplace is not inevitable and is preventable.”

Attorney-General D’ath said the Bill sent a clear and unequivocal message to workers and employers in Queensland that sexual harassment in the workplace was never acceptable.

“Workers will also be protected from violent interactions with customers, thanks to strong amendments to the Penalties and Sentences Act.

“If passed, a person being sentenced for an assault committed against a person in the workplace will be subject to an aggravated sentencing factor.”

She said the Bill also incorporated the first stage of reforms coming out of the Building Belonging Report and Inquiry into Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes Committee Report, including updating and expanding the list of protected attributes for both criminal and civil vilification to include sex, age, and impairment in addition to the existing attributes of race, religion, sexuality (renamed sexual orientation), gender identity and sex characteristics.