In the evolving landscape of workplace regulations, the term ‘positive duty’ marks a transformative shift in addressing sexual harassment. As mandated by the Sex Discrimination Act, employers must proactively prevent sexual harassment, departing from the reactive complaint handling approach. Positive Duty demands employers take pre-emptive measures to create a workplace free from discrimination, sexual harassment, and hostile environments based on sex—more than a legal requirement, it’s a commitment to fostering a safer and inclusive business culture.

Critical Points for Business Leaders:

1. Proactive Steps for a Positive Workplace:

Embrace the era of prevention by taking proactive and reasonable measures to eliminate:

  • Discrimination based on the grounds of sex in a work context.
  • Sexual harassment in connection to work.
  • Sex-based harassment in connection to work.
  • Creation of a hostile workplace environment on the grounds of sex.
  • Acts of victimisation related to these issues.

2. Universal Obligation:

Every organisation, including sole traders, must adhere to the positive duty. The Act holds employers and PCBUs liable for breaches committed by their employees unless they can demonstrate having taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent such behaviour.

3. Vicarious Liability Explained:

Understanding the principle of ‘vicarious liability’ is crucial. Employers may be held accountable for their employees’ actions unless they can prove proactive measures to prevent misconduct.

4. Monitoring and Enforcement:

The Human Rights Commission is set to monitor compliance with the positive duty. From 12 December 2023, they have the power to:

  • Compel the production of information, documents and policy platforms.
  • Examine witnesses.
  • Issue compliance notices specifying necessary actions.
  • Apply to federal courts for orders to direct compliance.
  • Enter into enforceable undertakings with organisations.

Business 360: Your Partner in Navigating Positive Duty:

Understanding and fulfilling these responsibilities might seem daunting, but you don’t have to navigate this terrain alone.

Business 360 is here to assist you every step of the way. Whether you need clarification on your duties or want a confidential discussion with our experienced team, we’re just a call away. Reach out to us at 1300 287 360 or email

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