Every business should be fully aware of the current Sex Discrimination Act 1984, but from 12 December 2023 it will move from being just a complaint-based system to one where businesses will have a pro-active obligation or ‘Positive Duty’ as well.

What has changed?

The changes will not replace the current legal components under the Act but complement them where the positive duty aims to reduce the risk of sexual and sex-based harassment, sex discrimination, hostile workplace environments and victimisation in Australian workplaces.

What you need to know?

The change means that businesses need to shift their focus to actively preventing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, rather than just responding to complaints or making changes after an incident occurs.

Regardless of the size of your business and whether you have employees, all organisations and businesses in Australia, with obligations under the current Sex Discrimination Act, must comply with the new positive duty. This includes sole traders and the self-employed.

Apart from the workplace culture and interactions that occur between people at a business, this pro-active response may include providing training as part of new employee inductions, making sure the physical workplace is free from potentially offending visual material, including clothing, but even the type of music which may contain offending lyrics being played by an individual or as background music.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has established the Respect@Work information service, which is a trauma-informed service that provides information to assist individuals, employers and organisations to better understand their rights and responsibilities.


    The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed a resource guide for small business owners to help them understand the new Positive Duty requirements.

    When you need to act by?

    Businesses need to be aware that from 12 December 2023, the Human Rights Commission will have the powers to investigate and enforce compliance with the positive duty.

    More information

    The Australian Human Rights Commission website has a range of resources available to help:

    Legal and risk
    27 September 2023