The timeframe to raise a personal grievance for sexual harassment is about to increase from 90 days to 12 months.
This change will come about as a result of the Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Bill, which passed its third reading on Wednesday, 7 June 2023. This means that the Bill has now passed all of the hurdles in the parliamentary process and awaits Royal Assent, which is expected to be given any day now.
This is quite a significant change from the status quo, with the timeframe to raise a personal grievance previously being limited to 90 days, irrespective of the basis for the personal grievance.
The rationale is to allow victims of sexual harassment more time to consider whether they want to bring a personal grievance, thereby improving the process for victims.
What do employers need to do?
Once the Bill is given Royal Assent, it will have practical implications for employers.
New employment agreements will need to specifically reference the 12 months within which an employee can raise a personal grievance for sexual harassment. This is in addition to the requirement to specify 90 days for other types of personal grievances. Here, new employment agreements are those that are entered into on or after the date of commencement, which will be the day after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
It is important to note that this requirement will apply irrespective of when bargaining or negotiations in respect of an employment agreement started, even where talks began before the commencement date.
Employers could face a monetary penalty for failure to include reference to the 12-month period and the 90-day period in new employment agreements.
What about current employment agreements?
Employers do not need to update current employment agreements. A recent Supplementary Order Paper removed any requirement to amend current employment agreements. However, employers might want to review their relevant workplace policies, to ensure that those policies are up to date.
If you have any questions about the new 12-month timeframe to raise a personal grievance for sexual harassment or have any questions about reviewing workplace policies, please get in touch with our Employment Law Team or your usual contact at Hesketh Henry.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is current at the date of publishing and is of a general nature. It should be used as a guide only and not as a substitute for obtaining legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought where required.