Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins Thursday unveiled a new code of conduct for parliamentarians and staffers to improve workplace culture in the Australian Parliament. The new code of conduct comes after the November 2021 Set the Standard report that Jenkins led which found that over 50 percent of parliamentarians and staffers had negative experiences working in Parliament, including instances of bullying and sexual harassment.
The percentage of those working within Parliament who experienced harassment drew attention to the adequacy of the existing frameworks that regulated the conduct of parliamentary workers, which in turn led to a redrafting of the code of conduct to further. The new codes of conduct makes it so that staffers are now better protected against discrimination, unfair termination and harassing behavior. Included in the code are new training and support programs, workplace support services as well as changes to the calendar that are family-focused.
According to Jenkins, the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce in charge of implementing the changes in the code of conduct made progress to improve the experiences of those in parliament. Jenkins said in a statement to the Australian Human Rights Commission, “It has implemented changes that are already having tangible benefits for parliamentary staff, and it has significantly advanced major pieces of work that will further improve the workplace culture at Parliament House.”
In the announcement of the new code of conduct, Jenkins drew parallels to a recent Four Corners investigation which revealed that 160 Australian doctors, guilty of serious sexual assault claims from 2010, are still registered to practice by in the health system. While Jenkins acknowledged that “[n]o industry is immune from workplace sexual harassment,” a 2021 law shifted the burden onto employers to prevent workplace sexual harassment.