Page 3676 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022
more effectively respond to workplace incidents. It is not the intention that the regulator would be interviewing persons that have been sexually assaulted about the specific details of the incident. This would be left, quite rightly, with the police and the criminal justice system. Instead, the regulator would consider the adequacy of the employer’s work health and safety organisational policies and practices. This data and information will assist the regulator to understand emerging trends in incidents, injury and illnesses and to target education and compliance activities.
In the 2020 Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry report, Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, wrote:
Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue: it is a societal issue, which every Australian, and every Australian workplace, can contribute to addressing.
Workplace sexual harassment is not inevitable. It is not acceptable. It is preventable.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner went on to say:
I have been devastated by the experiences of sexual harassment within workplaces I have heard about through this Inquiry, the harms suffered by victims and the cost to the economy. However, I have also been heartened by the whole-of-community response to the National Inquiry. Australia wants change.
I call on all employers to join me in creating safe, gender-equal and inclusive workplaces, no matter their industry or size. This will require transparency, accountability and leadership. It will also require a shift from the current reactive model, that requires complaints from individuals, to a proactive model, which will require positive actions from employers.
Ultimately, a safe and harassment-free workplace is also a productive workplace.
Through the Workplace Legislation Amendment Bill, the ACT will be leading the way on these important reforms relating to the reporting of workplace sexual assault incidents.
While it is not the intent of the amendment bill to capture sexual harassment in the definition of sexual assault, the national process through Safe Work Australia is likely to further expand the incident notification requirements to include sexual harassment and other psychosocial injuries.
It is pleasing to see the new federal Labor government has committed to implementing all of the recommendations from the Jenkins report of the independent review into commonwealth parliamentary workplaces. This shows that the federal government is leading by example in introducing important changes to workforce culture at Parliament House.
In the amendment bill, a sexual assault incident means an incident, including a suspected incident, in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person at the workplace to sexual assault. The term “sexual assault” is not defined in the bill. Instead, it appropriately uses the ordinary meaning of sexual assault.
The ordinary meaning of sexual assault is considered to be more readily understood