The federal government's sex discrimination bill has passed the Senate, after Labor made concessions to the legislation, agreeing to conduct reviews into the impact of the changes and the cost of legal proceedings.
The Respect at Work bill was debated on Friday, when the Senate sat an extra day, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The bill is based on the recommendations of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in the Respect at Work report.
The report made 55 recommendations for government and business to address sexual harassment in workplaces, which included placing a positive duty on employers to prevent and eliminate such behaviour.
It also gives power to the Australian Human Rights Commission to inquire into systemic, unlawful discrimination.
Liberal senator Michaelia Cash said the opposition supported the bill, which implemented further recommendations from the report that were not included in the former government's respect at work legislation.
"The bill that we have before us today builds on the leadership of the former coalition government and the work that we did and the legislation that we put in place," Senator Cash said.
She also supported the 12 month period between the bill passing and its enforcement, saying it would enable businesses to implement the changes.
The government made last-minute changes to its bill, removing the existing cost provisions, which would continue to force employees who took legal action against their employer over sexual harassment to pay their employers' legal fees if they lost.
A joint statement from Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said the government "carefully considered the recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and listened to stakeholder concerns in relation to the cost protection provisions currently in the bill, which are based on a recommendation of the Australian Human Rights Commission".
The government will refer the issue of costs in discrimination proceedings to the Attorney-General's Department for review immediately and to be completed in May 2023.
The Greens joined with the Jacqui Lambie network to move amendments, also passed by the Senate, for a statutory review of the changes made by the new legislation.
Greens senator Larissa Waters said "eliminating workplace sexual harassment will take a big cultural shift and a positive duty to create and maintain a safe workplace is the best way to drive that cultural shift".
Labor senator Marielle Smith spoke of the "shocking statistics" of women being harassed in the workplace and of her own experience.
"I remember being one of those statistics myself as a young retail and hospitality worker. I never forget it. You never forget the feelings which start with embarrassment and awkwardness, which grow into a sense of discomfort and then fear about heading back to the workplace," she said.