Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said she isn’t “giving up” when it comes to the legislative implementation of the remaining recommendations of the Respect@Work report on sexual harassment.
Speaking at a panel session at the National Summit on Women’s Safety on Monday, Jenkins explained that “even though it was frustrating” the federal government did not legislate all of the recommendations in the report last week, the remaining recommendations that can be legislated are not “off the agenda”, either.
Last week, the federal government passed a bill that enacted 6 out of the 12 legislative recommendations made in the report, which included 55 recommendations in total. The government did not legislate the central recommendation around a “positive duty” on employers to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces – Jenkins said she is most concerned with getting this recommendation implemented.
Introducing a positive duty on workplaces to take reasonable & proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination & sexual harassment as far as possible is essential reform. @Kate_Jenkins_ reflects on progress to deliver on the Respect@Work recommendations #WomensSafetySummit— Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon (@Kate_FitzGibbon) September 6, 2021
Jenkins said she “welcomes everyone’s views on the legislation passed last week” and the advocacy around pushing the government to look at implementing the remaining recommendations, particularly on positive duty. She said she is “pragmatic” about working with the government of the day to get the most out of the report.
“They haven’t said no to most of the other recommendations,” Jenkins told the panel on Monday. “Six of them went in and it could have been none. It’s not been a no, but it would have been fabulous if it all went through.”
“I’m not giving up.”
Speaking more broadly around sexual harassment, Jenkins said in workplaces the main driver is power disparities, and that “gender inequality is the main driver of that”.
Natalie Walker, founder and managing director of Inside Policy, told the panel that “culture starts with leadership” and the tone on sexual harassment in workplaces is “set from the top”.
Walker said the mere existence of sexual harassment policies in workplaces is not enough, and it is really important for leaders and employers to “be conscious of how they respond to the zeitgeist”.
“Of course, it starts with authenticity,” she said. “The leadership from the top and the tone that is set is so important.”