The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released guidelines for employers regarding the new ‘positive duty’ to eliminate sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
To comply with this duty, employers need to foster a respectful workplace culture, establish avenues for reporting incidents, and take a ‘risk-based’ approach to prevention.
The duty, introduced under the Sex Discrimination Act, requires employers to take ‘reasonable and proportionate measures’ to prevent sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and related issues.
Starting in December, the AHRC will investigate and enforce compliance with this duty.
The AHRC's guidance emphasizes that employers should tailor their approach to their specific operations' nature and size. It outlines guiding principles, including consultation with workers, promoting gender equality, considering intersectionality (overlapping structural inequalities), and adopting person-centred and trauma-informed approaches.
The AHRC is recommending senior leaders act as role models, organisations create ‘safe, respectful, and inclusive’ workplaces, workers are educated about expected behaviour standards, and businesses collect data to understand unlawful conduct affecting their workforce.
The guidance also offers examples of actions employers can take, such as focusing on gender balance and diversity in recruitment, developing gender equality strategies, setting gender equality targets, and considering positive discrimination initiatives to advance gender equality.