On 19 December 2022, the Respect@Work Council published guidance for employers on steps they can take to prevent sexual harassment occurring in their workplaces.

The Council’s Good Practice Indicators Framework for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment (the Framework) can be accessed through the recently created Respect@Work website.

The Framework is timely given the recent addition of a positive duty in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SD Act), which requires employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, as far as possible.

The Framework sets out the ‘good practice indicators’, which are divided into the seven key areas for action recommended by the Respect@Work report (leadership, knowledge, culture, risk assessment & transparency, support, reporting and measuring). The Framework is laid out with ‘simple’ and ‘mature’ measures for each area, allowing employers of all sizes and maturity levels to assess their systems, processes and culture.

The Framework is comprehensive and detailed, canvassing much subject matter. Two key call outs for employers are the following indicators of good practice:

  • a stand-alone sexual harassment policy that is developed in consultation with workers; and
  • regular training on respectful workplace conduct that defines what sexual harassment is, its drivers and contributing factors, and roles in prevention and response, which is undertaken by all workers, including leaders and board members.

The Framework also talks to the information on workplace sexual harassment prevalence, prevention and response that should be made available to workers, and makes clear the importance of a trauma informed response to reports of sexual harassment.

Given the enhanced legislative obligation for employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, the publication of the Framework provides a useful tool for employers to refer to as they assess their compliance with the positive duty.

Whilst the changes to the SD Act received Royal Assent on 12 December 2022, the ability of the Australian Human Rights Commission to enforce compliance with the positive duty does not come into effect until December 2023, thereby allowing employers time to prepare.

Decipher Workplace Law can provide tailored legal advice on the Framework and its application to your business in the context of the positive duty.

For more information, contact us.

This is general advice only and does not constitute legal advice. Please seek legal advice regarding your specific circumstances