New positive duty on employers. What is it and why is it important?

Holly Eggers, 2 min read
Judge's gavel with book

In December 2022, Australia introduced the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 as an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. 

The Respect at Work Act 2022 is a legislative amendment aimed at strengthening protections against workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation. The Act acknowledges that a safe and inclusive workplace is essential for individuals to thrive and contribute effectively. And we are here for it.

This amendment to the law covers a positive duty on employers and businesses to eliminate:

  • workplace sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and sex-based harassment;
  • conduct that amounts to subjecting a person to a hostile work environment on the ground of sex; 
  • and, certain acts of victimisation.

How can an organisation meet its positive duty?

Positive duty, with respect to the Respect at Work Act 2022, is a significant change that requires employers to focus on actively preventing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, rather than responding once it has occurred. 

Here is how positive duty can be applied in the context of this legislation:

  • Prevention and education: Positive duty encourages employers to prioritise prevention and education in the workplace. It involves implementing comprehensive training programs to educate and upskill employees about their rights and responsibilities, fostering awareness about discrimination and harassment, and promoting a respectful work culture.

  • Creating inclusive policies and procedures: Positive duty calls upon employers to develop and enforce inclusive policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. These policies should clearly outline the expected behaviour, reporting mechanisms, and consequences for violations, ensuring that everyone feels safe and protected.

  • Supporting victims: Positive duty emphasises the importance of supporting victims of discrimination and harassment. Employers should establish confidential reporting channels, provide appropriate support services, and ensure that victims are not subjected to retaliation. This creates an environment where victims feel empowered to come forward and seek resolution.

  • Promoting diversity and equality: Positive duty recognises the value of diversity in the workplace. Employers should actively promote equal opportunities, address any biases or barriers, and encourage a diverse and inclusive workforce. This can be achieved through fair recruitment practices, equitable pay structures, and career development opportunities for all employees.

We spoke with our HR partner, Amplify HR about the impact of this change on businesses:

"It's really important that business owners are clear on their sexual harassment and discrimination obligations, following recent changes to the Fair Work Act and Sex Discrimination Act. They are required to have a positive duty, meaning they must move away from a reactive approach of responding to complaints, to a proactive approach of preventing sexual harassment in their workplace. Getting across these changes themselves, and training their employees on these changes is key."

Karen Kirton, Managing Director, Amplify HR.

To help navigate these changes, Amplify HR has created a comprehensive Sexual Harassment and Positive Duty Checklist. This free resource is available to download here.

So, what now?

If you're unsure how to communicate or train your workplace on these recent changes, please get in touch with Mark Eggers for more information and a chat about how Yarno could help. Just call him on 0401 872 305 or email him, today.

Holly Eggers

Holly Eggers

Holly is a mother, marketing wiz, feedback guru and all round A+ person. She’s the woman that the Sarah Jessica Parker movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” is based on.

More from Holly Eggers

We'd love to chat about how Yarno can benefit your business

Mark Eggers

Mark, our Head of Sales, will organise a no-obligation call with you to understand your business and any training challenges you’re facing. Too easy.