New sexual harassment laws

New legislation concerning sexual harassment has passed Federal Parliament and is expected to come into effect within the next couple of weeks.

Here is a summary all employers should be aware of:

Unfair dismissal

When the Fair Work Commission determines whether a dismissal was harsh unjust or unreasonable, sexual harassment conduct can amount to a valid reason for dismissal. The definition of serious misconduct in the Fair Work Regulations is also proposed to be amended to include sexual harassment. 

Orders to Stop Sexual Harassment

The Fair Work Commission anti-bullying jurisdiction will be expanded, and the Commission will be able to make an order to stop sexual harassment in the workplace from taking place, but no order to pay a pecuniary payment can be made. 

Sex Discrimination Act

Discrimination involving harassment on the ground of sex would be prohibited by the Sex Discrimination Act. Harassment on the ground of sex will be defined as unwelcome conduct of a seriously demeaning nature by reason of the person’s sex, in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated, or intimidated. 

The Fair Work Act will also be amended, and an employee will be entitled to take compassionate leave if the employee or the employee’s spouse or de facto partner has a miscarriage. 

Employers are advised to familiarise themselves with the new changes in legislation, review their workplace policies and amend if required, immediately act on allegations of sexual harassment and, to seek legal advice if uncertain about their obligations.

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For further information on sexual harassment, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email