1 About this document
2 A guide to the Code of Practice
3 What is sexual harassment?
4 When is sexual harassment prohibited?
6 Preventing sexual harassment: All reasonable steps
7 Complaint procedures
8 Guidelines for small business
10 Other duties of employers
Appendix A: Complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission
The Sex Discrimination Act protects individuals across Australia from discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or pregnancy and, in relation to employment, family responsibilities. The Act also makes sexual harassment against the law.
For free advice on discrimination and your rights, or to make a complaint, call the Australian Human Rights Commission Complaints Information Line on 02 9284 9888, 1300 656 419 or TTY 1800 620 241.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was amended earlier this year to expand the protections against sexual harassment. The changes, contained in the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011, took effect on 21 June 2011. These amendments are an encouraging step forward to achieving gender equality in Australia. You may need to be aware of these changes when you consider this code of practice.
The amendments extend the definition of sexual harassment, in line with the Commission’s recommendations. Under the previous definition, sexual harassment arose where:
- a person made a sexual advance, request for sexual favours, or engaged in other conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person
- that conduct was unwelcome, and
- in the circumstances a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
The amendments broaden the third limb of this test. The test now requires merely that a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated, or intimidated by the conduct. The amendment also provided a list of possible circumstances which may indicate whether a reasonable person would have anticipated that possibility.
The amendments also extend coverage in the workplace by removing the requirement that the harassment must occur at the workplace of both participants. As a result, the Act now encompasses sexual harassment which arises between those employed by different organisations who do not have a workplace in common.
In addition, the amendments extend the coverage of sexual harassment to protect service providers who are sexually harassed by a customer or client in the course of provision of goods and services. Previously, the Act only protected customers and clients against sexual harassment from service providers. Service providers were not afforded the same protection against sexual harassment from their customers and clients. As a result of the Amendment Act it is now unlawful for a person to sexually harass another person in the course of seeking, or receiving, goods, services or facilities from the harassed person. This will provide protection to service providers against sexual harassment by customers and clients.
Finally, the amendments introduce changes that support claims of unlawful sexual harassment conducted through postal, telegraphic, telephonic or other like services. This amendment strengthens the protection from unlawful sexual harassment conducted through new technologies, namely over the internet, or through social media or texting.