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Respect@Work legislation: introducing a new positive duty on employers.

Respect@Work reforms strengthen prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination

Active prevention of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination by employers in Australia is now enshrined in legislation. Responding only after it occurs in the workplace is no longer acceptable. Organisations must have in place measures to prevent and appropriately respond to sexual harassment in the workplace.

How do the Respect@Work reforms work?

  • Shifts the responsibility away from individual employees enforcing their right to a safe and inclusive workplace to employers implementing a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.
  • Organisations must be proactive in preventing sexual harassment.

What is 'positive duty'?

  • This outlines that employers have a duty to take reasonable and proportionate measure to eliminate, as far as possible, certain discriminatory conduct, including sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sex-based harassment and certain acts of victimisation in the workplace context (Australian Human Rights Commission).

Who is responsible for ensuring employers abide by the Respect@Work reforms?

  • Workplaces now could face investigation if they fail to implement the steps and measures to prevent sexual harassment.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been granted new powers to investigate and enforces businesses comply with the new positive duty.
  • AHRC will also be able to issue compliance notices or make a court application to force compliance for organisations that have unsuccessfully meet the criteria. 

How can employers implement a positive duty?

The implementation process will vary and depend on the size and nature of the organisation, available resources and practicality. Actively supporting breastfeeding employees returning to work is one measure of positive duty. 


Becoming an accredited Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace will ensure your organisation provides positive duty. This accreditation program fully aligns with current Australian legislative requirements and provides a comprehensive range of support resources.  

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The Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace (BFW) accreditation aims to remove the workplace as a barrier to breastfeeding

The accreditation is an innovative way for organisations to proactively demonstrate their commitment to supporting breastfeeding employees in a way that also brings tangible benefits to employees and employers.

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