New laws to protect Qld workers from discrimination, harassment

Monday, 17 June, 2024

New laws to protect Qld workers from discrimination, harassment

The Queensland Government has introduced legislation to ensure the safety of workers across the state. Building on the Respect@Work Report and Queensland’s Plan for the Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women, the Respect at Work and Other Matters Bill will protect all workers — especially women in Queensland — from sex-based discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The Bill includes new prohibitions of harassment on the basis of sex, along with a prohibition on subjecting another person to a working environment that is hostile on the ground of sex. The Bill will also instate a positive duty on all employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and other conduct that is unlawful, per the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991. The Bill aims to send a message to workers and employers in Queensland that sexual harassment in the workplace is never acceptable.

Amendments have also been made to the Penalties and Sentences Act, to protect workers from violent interactions with customers. If passed, a person being sentenced for an assault committed against a person in the workplace will be subjected to an aggravated sentencing factor.

The Bill also incorporates reforms coming out of the Building Belonging Report and Inquiry into Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes Committee Report. This includes updating and expanding the list of protected attributes for criminal and civil vilification to include sex, age and impairment, in addition to the existing attributes of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

The Bill also aims to ensure that discrimination can no longer occur on the basis of attributes such as someone’s physical appearance, irrelevant medical record, irrelevant criminal record, homelessness or that they have been subject to domestic or family violence. The amendments reflecting the key vilification reports will expand the range of protections to include age, disability and medical status, to help protect vulnerable members of the community.

Parliamentary consultation into the Bill has now commenced, with Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath stating that all Queenslanders have the right to feel safe from unlawful conduct including discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification and victimisation.

“These types of behaviour have devastating effects on the health and wellbeing of people. But what is often overlooked is discriminatory behaviour in the workplace impacts productivity. 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. Workers are human beings and deserve to have their rights protected under the law and, like all people, deserve to be treated with respect by the public,” D’Ath said.

Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said everyone deserves to feel safe when heading to work and these new laws will ensure that workers are protected. “It’s concerning to hear that nearly every woman has reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace at some point in their lifetime. Harassment in the workplace is never acceptable and I’m proud to be part of a government that is taking action,” Fentiman said.

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