New powers coming in December 2023 for AHRC


In December 2022, a positive duty on employers, businesses, and organisations to take ‘reasonable and proportionate’ steps to eliminate unlawful conduct in the workplace was included in the Sex Discrimination Act.

This major piece of legislative reform was a key recommendation from the Commission’s landmark Respect@Work report. It aims to stop unlawful conduct such as sexual and sex-based harassment, sex discrimination, hostile workplace environments and related acts of victimisation before they start.

Organisations and businesses are now required to focus on actively preventing unlawful conduct connected to work, rather than responding only after it occurs.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released resources to help organisations and businesses comply with the new Positive Duty in the Sex Discrimination Act.

The legislation shifts the emphasis from a complaints-based model to one where employers are required to take action, and continuously assess and evaluate whether they are meeting the requirements of the duty.

Fast forward 12 months, the Australian Human Rights Commission will receive new regulatory powers in December 2023 to ensure organisations and businesses meet the Positive Duty requirements.

The Commission’s resources are being released now to encourage and support businesses and organisations to take action to comply with the Positive Duty, before its enforcement powers commence.

The resources cater for organisations and businesses of all sizes, and include all relevant information, practical examples and frameworks required to understand the steps they need to follow to meet their obligations.

Additionally, the Commission has established the Respect@Work Information Service, which is a free national, trauma-informed service that provides information to assist individuals, employers and organisations to better understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination in the workplace.

Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM said “With one in three Australians reporting they’ve been sexually harassed at work over the last five years, leaders of organisations and businesses play a pivotal role in setting the benchmark for best practice in preventing harassment and discrimination in Australian workplaces.

“This is a significant moment for leadership. Implementing the positive duty is an opportunity for Australia to change the places in which we work – to be safe, inclusive, gender-equal, and free from sexual harassment and discrimination.”

Source: AHRC, August 2023