Wendy Jeffery-Lonnie

December 4, 2023

Whilst Sex Discrimination laws have been in place for many years in Australia, the focus of the legislation has been to protect people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status ensuring pay and equal employment opportunities, it also prohibits sexual harassment and requires the investigation of instances of sexual harassment if and when it occurs.

The new Respect@Work laws take effect on 6 December 2023. Changes to the wording of the legislation introduce a positive duty on businesses to take all reasonable and proportionate steps to eliminate all forms of sexual harassment from their business. This also includes instances of sex discrimination, sex-based harassment, conduct that creates a hostile workplace environment, and victimisation.

Having a policy document prohibiting sexual harassment or investigating an issue when it happens is no longer enough. From 6 December 2023 you have additional positive duty responsibilities.

Business owners and managers need to evaluate all parts of their organisation to ensure where there is a likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of sex based harassment, discrimination or victimisation, that actions are put in place to either eliminate, or significantly reduce it.

This will involve not just having a policy statement or clause in your employment contracts, but will be required to be imbedded into all parts of your business from induction, training, policy development, recruitment and promotion activities, along with your business culture.

There are some great resources at www.respectatwork.gov.au, or contact Wendy Jeffery-Lonnie (GPHR Director) at wendy@gphr.com.au for practical advice and support.

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