The government of Victoria has limited the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in lawsuits to protect victims of sexual harassment from being silenced, a move that garnered support from employment lawyers.
Ingrid Stitt, Victoria's workplace safety minister, announced the decision, explaining that a ministerial task force investigated workplace sexual harassment, created 26 recommendations, and pushed for reforms.
The ministerial task force based their recommendations on a bill in Ireland that aims to prevent NDAs from covering up discrimination.
As for the deadline, Stitt said there is no set date yet for the reform because the government wanted to conduct a detailed evaluation of "what legislative change could look like" and avoid unintended consequences.
Read more: Respect at Work: How Australia is combatting workplace sexual harassment
Employment lawyer John Bornstein said Victoria's legislative response must ensure victims had options about signing legal contracts that prevent parties from disclosing sensitive information.
In a report by The Guardian Australia, Bornstein said there must be a "trauma-informed approach" in handling these legal cases so that the person most affected by the case does not lose their agency or choice.
Tim Piper, head of peak employer association Australian Industry Group, said it was understandable to restrict NDAs, but there must also be a "nuanced" legislative response.
Piper said the government must educate inspectors at WorkSafe Victoria in handling sexual harassment cases with sensitivity and for employers to understand their role in these situations. He added that teaching inspectors how to handle such cases is an extensive education campaign.