Page 1869 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022
In response to recommendation 20, expanding the incident notification provisions is being considered at a national level through Safe Work Australia. I expect this work will pave the way for further expansion of the incident notification requirements to include certain psychological injuries and sexual harassment.
The changes in this bill represent a significant step forward in giving visibility to the all too often under-reported act of workplace violence. Specifically, the bill includes amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to incorporate a workplace sexual assault as a notifiable incident which is reported to the regulator. Under these amendments, a sexual assault incident means an incident or suspected incident in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person at the workplace to sexual assault. By notifying the WHS regulator of incidents, appropriate action can be taken to assess the risks and implement controls in a workplace to prevent further violence or aggression.
The incident notification requirements are not intended to impede or interfere with police responses and investigations for the enforcement of criminal law. In fact, we have deliberately steered away from terms like “alleged” and using the Crimes Act 1900 definition of a sexual assault offence.
I previously committed to the Assembly that I would bring forward reforms that will assist employers to better identify, understand and respond to psychosocial risks in their workplaces. These reforms are responsive to community expectations about preventing all forms of bullying, including workplace sexual assault and occupational violence. This bill is one part of these broader reforms.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of the Work Safe Commissioner and her fierce advocacy and efforts to deal with the prevalence of workplace sexual assault and psychosocial hazards in the workplace. She and her team have been leading this work here in the territory and at the national level. We will continue to work with her and her team to strengthen our laws to keep people safe at work.
Overall, this legislation is important in protecting the health and safety of workers and the Canberra community. These enhancements will provide a more effective deterrence against poor workplace safety practices. This amendment bill also makes a number of amendments to other legislation within my portfolio. It amends the Workers Compensation Act 1951 to improve worker protections relating to private sector workers compensation. The bill will permit the taking and accrual of annual and long service leave while an injured worker is receiving weekly payments under a workers compensation claim. Such a position is anticipated under the commonwealth’s Fair Work Act 2009. By allowing the taking and accrual of annual and long service leave, this change will align the ACT to the majority of other jurisdictions. Currently only the ACT, the Northern Territory and the commonwealth maintain the default position of not taking and accruing leave entitlements while a worker is receiving workers compensation weekly payments.
The bill will also make minor and technical amendments to the Long Service Leave (Portable Schemes) Act 2009 in relation to a section referencing inconsistencies and