Time to update your employment agreement: extended timeframes for claims of sexual harassment now in effect

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The Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Act 2023 received Royal assent this week. The amendment came into effect on 13 June 2023.

The amendment extends the time available to raise a personal grievance involving allegations of sexual harassment from 90 days to 12 months. This also requires a change to the information about personal grievances that must be included in new employment agreements. Any employment agreements signed from 13 June onwards will need to be updated to reflect this change.

Why was the change made?

The Employment Relations Act 2000 (Act) generally requires an employee to raise any personal grievance within 90 days. For claims involving sexual harassment, 90 days is not always long enough for a person to consider what has occurred and feel safe to raise it with others. This amendment will ensure that a person who experiences sexual harassment has enough time to bring a claim.

The new one-year timeframe only applies to events that occur (or that come to the notice of the employee) after the amendment comes into force. Any event that occurred before 13 June 2023 retains the 90-day time period.

What do you need to do?

Any written policies and guidelines about personal grievances will need to be updated. In addition, the Act requires all employment agreements to include a plain language explanation of the services available for the resolution of employment relationship problems. This has always included a specific requirement to refer to the need to bring any personal grievance within 90 days. The amendment now requires this explanation to be expanded to include a reference to the extended time for a personal grievance for sexual harassment. Employment agreements will need to be updated to cover this.

Employment agreements for existing employees will not need to be updated. However, this change provides a good opportunity for employers to provide existing employees with notice of the additional entitlement, and to remind employees about harassment policies and expectations for workplace conduct.

Our national employment team is available to review your employment agreements and policies and answer any questions you may have. Please contact a member of our employment team to discuss further.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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