AHRC releases set of resources to help employers comply with new discrimination act

Emphasis on employers to take 'reasonable and proportionate' steps to eliminate unlawful conduct

AHRC releases set of resources to help employers comply with new discrimination act

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released a set of resources to help organisations comply with the new Positive Duty in the Sex Discrimination Act which places the duty on employers to actively prevent unlawful conduct in the workplace.   

One in three Australians report they’ve been sexually harassed at work over the last five years, says Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Commission President.

“Australia must take active steps to prevent unlawful workplace behaviour before it even begins,” she says in a media release.

Changes to Sex Discrimination Act

Following changes to the Sex Discrimination Act in December 2022, organisations are required to focus on actively preventing unlawful conduct connected to work, rather than responding only after it occurs. From December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission will have new regulatory powers to ensure organisations are meeting the new requirements.    

This major legislative reform places positive duty on employers to take ‘reasonable and proportionate’ steps to eliminate unlawful conduct in the workplace, including sexual and sex-based harassment, sex discrimination, hostile workplace environments and related acts of victimisation.  

The legislation shifts the emphasis from a complaints-based model to one where employers are required to take action, and continuously assess and evaluate whether they are meeting the requirements.

Despite welcoming the passage of the Respect@Work Bill, Australia's national employer association earlier pointed out a "problem" in the expanded role of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in the new law.

Free, confidential service on sexual harassment, discrimination

To assist in understanding rights and responsibilities in relation to sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination in the workplace, the AHRC has established the Respect@Work Information Service.

The service is free and confidential and also provides appropriate referrals, including for support services. Its resources cater to organisations of all sizes, and include practical examples and frameworks required to understand the steps required to meet the obligations.

The legislative reform was a key recommendation from the Commission’s Respect@Work Report.

Leaders of organisations and businesses “play a pivotal role in setting the benchmark for best practice in preventing harassment and discrimination in Australian workplaces,” says the Commission President in the media release.

“This is a significant moment for leadership. Implementing the positive duty is an opportunity for Australia to change the places in which we work – to be safe, inclusive, gender-equal, and free from sexual harassment and discrimination.” 

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