The Greens have facilitated a welcome decision to review costs protections, rather than the government pushing ahead with the ‘costs neutrality’ approach outlined in the Respect at Work Bill, and will continue to push for sensible reforms that ensure everyone can feel safe at work.
Lines attributable to Greens leader in the Senate and spokesperson on women Senator Larissa Waters
“We are pleased that the government has heard the concerns raised by advocates, victim-survivors, legal experts and unions, the Greens and the cross-bench, on the need for costs protections.
“The Greens have worked with the Government to give the Senate extra sitting time for the passage of key bills and to ensure this issue of costs is properly addressed, with a comprehensive review of costs for all workplace discrimination cases.
“The Greens will keep the pressure up to ensure that no-one is priced out of standing up for their rights at work, whether that be for sexual harassment or any other type of discrimination.
“Financial risks remain a significant barrier to workers making complaints. Many workers, particularly women, weigh up the trauma and financial risk and decide to stay silent. Providing more options for victims of sexual harassment to make complaints doesn’t change things if women cannot afford to make complaints.
“Equal access costs protections, where workers can take action without fear of paying the other side’s costs if they lose, already exist for whistleblowers to remove barriers for people calling out misconduct. The same should apply for calling out workplace harassment.
“While the review is underway, it is essential that clear guidance be provided to courts and tribunals on awarding costs and damages in workplace harassment and discrimination claims. That guidance must address the unfair advantage employers have over individual workers, and the significant toll that ongoing harassment can take.
“This Bill presents a generational opportunity to change workplace culture and the Greens are pleased to have secured a comprehensive review of costs so that workers don’t face financial barriers to standing up against discrimination at work.”