Do you know your obligations?

On 12 December 2022, the Sex Discrimination Act was amended to include a positive obligation to eliminate sexual harassment. Following that, the Fair Work Act was changed to include an express prohibition on sexual harassment. 

Australian workplaces were given a ‘grace period’ until 12 December 2023 to implement changes to comply with the new legislation. From this date, the Australian Human Rights Commission will have enforcement powers to investigate breaches and award penalties.

What does this mean for your Business?

These new changes are a dramatic shift in responsibility on businesses – gone are the days of simply reacting to complaints. It means that all employers have an active duty to prevent sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and victimisation from occurring in the workplace.

Businesses that breach the legislation may be subject to compliance notices, enforceable undertakings, financial penalties and reputational costs from the failure to prevent these actions.

What is the positive duty?

Simply put, the positive duty requires companies to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate, as far as possible unlawful conduct.

Specifically the conduct related to sexual harassment, sex-based harassment, sex discrimination, conduct creating a workplace environment that is hostile on the ground of sex, and related acts of victimisation.

From 12 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission will have powers to enforce compliance with the positive duty.

What is required for compliance with the positive duty?

The Commission’s guidance on the new positive duty sets out the practical actions the Commission expects organisations to take in order to comply with the positive duty, by setting seven clear standards applicable to all organisations.

The standards align with the seven domains of an effective prevention and response framework, identified in the 2020 Respect@Work report, and address:

  1. Leadership
  2. Culture
  3. Knowledge
  4. Risk management
  5. Support
  6. Reporting and response
  7. Monitoring, evaluation and transparency.

The guidance also includes practical examples of actions duty holders can take to meet each of the standards, depending on the size, nature and circumstances of their business.

How can Businessary help you?

We can work with you to create a Prevention and Response Plan tailored to your business, by working with you to identify practical actions that are likely to have the most impact in your organisation.

Not sure where to start or if this applies to you?

Find out more about our Respect@work support service or reach out to Lana Rajsic for a no obligation discussion by booking a time here.