On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the country will scrap exemptions for judges and politicians from sexual harassment laws.
The development comes after his government struggles to contain a backlash over allegations of mistreatment of female lawmakers and staff.
Under broad changes aimed at empowering complainants in workplace gender-related disputes, employers will be required to take a proactive approach to stop gender discrimination, while complainants get a longer period of time to lodge complaints, Morrison said.
Early last year, Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner called for broad changes to workplace laws including removing exemptions for public sector employers and people who hire volunteers.
Morrison said on Thursday he would adopt all 55 of the commissioner’s recommendations which include a blanket ban on workplace gender discrimination, mandatory training of company directors and reporting by listed companies, as well as improved coordination between complaint-handling agencies.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable,” Morrison told reporters in the capital, Canberra.
“It’s not only immoral and despicable and even criminal … it denies Australians, especially women, not just their personal security but their economic security by not being safe at work.”
Public servants like judges and politicians are currently exempt from complaints about workplace gender discrimination, as are some employers of volunteers, because of a legal loophole which means they are technically not the complainant’s employer.