FCA welcomes Government responses to sexual harassment report

The Federal Government’s belated acceptance of recommendations laid out in the 2020 Respect@Work report has been welcomed by the Franchise Council of Australia and other industry groups.

Mary Aldred, CEO of the FCA, told Inside Franchise Business Executive, “Every Australian has the right to feel safe in their workplace. The FCA supports the Federal Government’s position of zero tolerance for sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

“It is essential to progress reforms to eliminate sexual harassment and to better support employers in preventing sexual harassment and addressing complaints. It is encouraging to note a number of the recommendations have already been funded and are underway.”

Aldred said “There are also some important recommendations that require state government implementation, and they should be acted on without delay. ”

The report was delivered early last year by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, but only recently elicited a response from the Government following a spate of allegations of sexual misconduct in Parliament House.

Among the 55 recommendations which have been accepted “wholly, in part, or in principle” by the Government is the widening of the scope of the charge of ‘serious misconduct’ (which can lead to employment termination) to include sexual harassment.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra said sexual harassment has been a blight on Australian workplaces for far too long.

“The Report found 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men had experienced sexual harassment at work, and that it costs the Australian economy $3.8 billion each year. We need a powerful and coordinated response to address this disgusting scourge and the Government’s response is a positive first step,” Zahra said.
“Changes have been announced to various forms of legislation, including the Fair Work Act, which will be amended to include sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal.

“The Government’s commitment to education programs and prevention strategies are also a positive move to stopping harassment from occurring in the first place,’ he said.

Innes Willox, CEO of the national employer association, Ai Group, said the organisation was a strong supporter of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces that led to the Respect@Work Report and shared the employers’ perspective in preventing sexual harassment and addressing complaints.

He said reform was needed to better support employers currently constrained by a complex legal framework in preventing and addressing complaints.

“Some of the recommendations need careful consideration to avoid any unintended or unfair consequences.”