The Greens welcome the passage of the Respect at Work Bill in the Senate today, after facilitating a decision to send contentious costs provisions for a comprehensive review.
Lines attributable to Greens leader in the Senate and spokesperson on women Senator Larissa Waters:
“The Greens welcome and support this Bill. The significance of the changes it will make for women cannot be overstated. It is a positive and overdue reform to make workplaces safe and respectful for everyone.
“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 improved costs protections.
“The Greens have worked with the Government to ensure this issue of costs is properly addressed, with a comprehensive review of costs to ensure legitimate discrimination cases are not deterred and justice denied.
“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.
“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.
“The Bill will also introduce a positive duty on employers to maintain a safe workplace. The adversarial ‘victim complaint’ approach has failed so many people, so putting the onus on employers is a critical step in changing that.
“We’re pleased to see this become law after the Morrison Government and One Nation blocked crucial amendments last year from the Greens and Labor that would have implemented this positive duty - a centrepiece of the Respect@Work recommendations.
“We were also pleased to get in-principle support from the Government to look at extending positive duty obligations to prevent race, age and disability discrimination, and will continue to push for that change.
“The Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network also secured support for a full review of the operation of these provisions after 2 years. This Bill makes landmark changes and it is important that we review how these changes are working in practice and what further reforms or support might be needed to drive cultural change and put an end to workplace harassment.
“The passage of Respect at Work represents a generational opportunity to change workplace culture and the Greens are happy that Kate Jenkins’ landmark report and recommendations will finally be implemented.”