Queensland introduces new bill to enhance workplace harassment protections

New legislation will protect workers from discrimination, assault, sexual harassment, among others

Queensland introduces new bill to enhance workplace harassment protections

The Queensland government has introduced a new bill to Parliament aimed at strengthening protections for employees against sex-based discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The Respect at Work and Other Matters Bill seeks to enhance protections for Queensland workers against discrimination, vilification, sexual harassment, victimisation, and other unlawful behaviours, according to the state government.

Among the key provisions in the bill are:

  • New prohibitions of harassment on the basis of sex
  • A prohibition on subjecting another person to a work environment that is hostile on the ground of sex
  • 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.

The bill also amends the Penalties and Sentences Act to make workplace assault an "aggravated sentencing factor" for judges to consider during sentencing.

Yvette D'Ath, Queensland's attorney-general and justice minister, said the law will not only benefit employees, but also workplaces.

"What is often overlooked is discriminatory behaviour in the workplace impacts productivity," D'Ath said in a statement. "These laws don't just protect workers, they also benefit workplaces, as employees will be able to feel safe, valued and supported, meaning they can work to their potential."

Harassment at work

The new bill comes as national evidence shows 77% of all workers have been sexually harassed in their lifetime, a figure that increases to 89% when it comes to female employees, according to the Queensland government.

Shannon Fentiman, Queensland's minister for women, called these findings "concerning."

"Everyone deserves to feel safe when heading to work and these new laws will ensure workers are protected," Fentiman said in a statement.

The legislation also builds on the historic Respect@Work Report and Queensland's Plan for the Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women.

It also builds on a campaign from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) that brought attention to the abusive and violent behaviour experienced by a vast majority of retail and fast-food workers.

Justin Power, SDA Queensland Branch Secretary, congratulated the government on its proposed amendments to the Penalties and Sentences Act.

"The Miles government's proposed amendments to section 9 will increase the consequences for those customers who physically assault our members and importantly, act as a deterrent from those assaults occurring in the first place," Power said in a statement.

 

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