We’ve had a lot of questions about the introduction of the Positive Duty into the Sex Discrimination Act, and what it means to organisations in January 2024.

First thing – rest assured, this is a good change, and one that makes a positive difference to workplaces.

Second thing – the tools that are available are good, easily accessed, and relatively easily applied. And, be assured, that taking proactive and preventive action also creates a much better workplace for all.

So, you’ve got this.

Here’s a summary.

And for the detail, we’ve included the links to the publicly available resources, so you can dive right in!

What is the ‘positive duty?'

A legal obligation introduced into the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) in December 2022.

It requires organisations and businesses to take ‘reasonable and proportionate’ measures to eliminate the following

  • discrimination on the grounds of sex
  • sexual harassment in connection with work
  • sex-based harassment in connection with work
  • conduct creating a workplace environment that is hostile on the grounds of sex, and
  • related acts of victimisation.

What is the change and why was it implemented?

It moves the responsibility on organisations from ‘responding to’ after a behaviour occurs, to ‘actively preventing’. It was implemented after a recommendation from the Respect@Work Report, released by the Human Rights Commission in March 2020.  It moves responsibility from employees to raise issues that occur, to employers preventing occurrence.

Who does it cover?

All organisations and businesses in Australia that have obligations under the Sex Discrimination Act. This includes sole traders, small, medium, and large businesses and government. It covers employers, employees, and third parties.

What are the guiding principles?

The positive Duty of Care provides four Guiding Principles as a framework.

These are:

  1. Consultation

Consult with your team about what they need to ensure a safe and respectful workplace.

  1. Gender Equality

Ensure all actions contribute towards gender equality.

  1. Intersectionality

Referring to the way different aspects of a person’s identity impact on one another.

  1. Person-Centred and Trauma-Informed

Person-centred means making processes meet the needs of individuals, and trauma-informed is a measure so the workplace has an understanding of trauma and its impact when they design their approaches to address issue.

What are the seven standards that need to apply?

There are seven standards to be met.

They are:

  1. Leadership – Understand their obligations and are suitable people to be doing leadership roles
  2. Culture – Fostering a culture that is safe, respectful, and inclusive and that values diversity
  3. Knowledge – Policies, processes, and knowledge are communicated to all
  4. Risk Management – Organisations understand their specific risks and mitigate them
  5. Support – Appropriate support is available to all employees, including leaders
  6. Reporting and Responding – Ensuring that options to report and respond are available
  7. Monitoring, Evaluation, and Transparency – That data is collected to look at details, trends, and recurrences, and that is used to inform and improve approaches.

Where are the resources?

There are a lot of great resources (and much more detail) available from the Human Rights Commission’s own website.

Here’s the links to get started:

A quick guide for complying with positive duty of care under the Sex Discrimination Act


And a definition of Positive Duty


And if you’re a Company Director or business-owner, and particularly a member of AICD, here’s their Positive duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment:


What should I do if I need a hand?

The bottom line is that positive duty of care simply means creating and sustaining a positive workplace culture. We’ve long argued that that is critical for all of us to thrive and do our best work, and ultimately for organisations to be successful.

The majority of organisations are already well into proactive and positive approaches to great culture.

It is foundational to how the best organisations are run and led.

That said, if you need a hand with any of this, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or drop us a line on [email protected]

Always happy to help, and to give some guidance on who is already doing this really well.