Positive duty rules change from today
The Sector > Jobs News > Positive duty rules for employers – including ECEC – start from today

Positive duty rules for employers – including ECEC – start from today

by Freya Lucas

December 12, 2023

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has new regulatory powers from today, with the authority to ensure and inquire into a duty holder’s compliance with positive duty in relation to inclusiveness. 


What is positive duty?


All Australian workplaces should be safe, inclusive, gender-equal, respectful and free from sexual harassment and sex discrimination.


There is now a “new era of accountability” and cultural transformation for organisations and businesses across Australia including early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. 


The new statutory obligation in the Sex Discrimination Act is known as the positive duty


It requires organisations and businesses to take “reasonable and proportionate measures” to eliminate, as far as possible: 


  • Discrimination on the ground of sex in a work context 
  • Sexual harassment in connection with work 
  • Sex-based harassment in connection with work
  • Conduct creating a workplace environment that is hostile on the ground of sex
  • Related acts of victimisation.


What is the role of the leader? 


Sex Discrimination Commissioner Dr Anna Cody said “Leaders of organisations and businesses play a crucial role in setting an example in preventing unlawful conduct and fostering a culture of respect and inclusiveness.”


“Organisations and businesses are now required to focus on actively preventing unlawful conduct connected to work, rather than responding only after it happens,” she added.


What is the purpose of the positive duty changes? 


Dr Cody explained that the purpose of the positive duty is the creation of safer, more inclusive and respectful workplaces throughout Australia. By ensuring compliance with the positive duty obligations, the Commission, alongside Australian organisations and businesses, is taking significant strides towards fostering meaningful cultural change. 


What do leaders need to do next?


The Commission has published a Compliance and Enforcement Policy, offering guidance on how it will exercise its regulatory functions and outlining how the Commission will support duty holders and provide the necessary information crucial for compliance.


Further information on the Commission’s positive duty resources and information services can be found on the Commission’s website.

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