Positive duty

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 makes it easier for people to understand their rights and responsibilities.

One aspect of the new law is that it clearly sets out the positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

It is important people in your organisation know about the positive duty and understand how it works. Complying with the positive duty will help you stop discrimination before it happens and will take us a step closer to creating equal opportunity for everyone in Victoria.

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Tips when considering your positive duty

Scan:

  • Understand the law.
  • Gather relevant information.
  • Look around your organisation and think about who you interact with and what you do. Who do your activities affect? Where can you see potential problems?
  • Look at your policies, programs, practices and procedures (written or unwritten).
  • Consult with internal and external stakeholders.

Plan:

  • Analyse information and identify key issues and priorities.
  • Set out your plan of action. Take an approach that is relevant to your size, resources and functions. Develop new policies and change practices where needed. Outline the objectives you think you should achieve to prevent discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

Act:

  • Implement your plan and train your staff.

Review:

  • Monitor what happens and revisit your approach where necessary. For larger organisations this should be part of the normal business planning cycle.

Examples of positive duty

The positive duty in practice: Nordom*

Ben is the manager of Nordom, a financial institution employing 80 people. To prepare for the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, he reviews customer satisfaction surveys and complaints, and audits Nordom’s training materials, policies and practices.

Nordom has never received a discrimination complaint but customer feedback shows that people with disability have trouble accessing Nordom’s services. People with wheelchairs cannot reach the information brochures in the foyer and the font used in promotional materials is too small for people with vision impairments.

In addition, despite receiving numerous loan applications by recently-settled migrants, few are approved because staff find it difficult to interact with people who speak little English.

Nordom updates its policies, introduces training for all staff on equal opportunity, disability and cross-cultural awareness, and adjusts its publications so that information on its services is more accessible.

These measures are likely to constitute reasonable and proportionate measures under the positive duty.

The positive duty in practice: Accent*

Isobel is a human resource manager at Accent, a marketing company that employs 250 people.

In preparation for the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, and as part of Accent’s strategic plan, she conducts a confidential staff satisfaction survey, looks at records of exit interviews, and reviews Accent’s policies and practices to help identify and prevent discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

The process reveals a high turnover of women at Accent because many are denied flexible working arrangements, are paid less than their male colleagues and are uncomfortable with the level of sexual banter in the office.

Isobel also discovers that when employees raise these grievances they are not treated seriously or confidentially. Although Accent has policies on discrimination, harassment and grievance procedures, they are out of date and most staff aren’t aware of them.

She informs management who agree to review policies and procedures and provide training for all staff on their rights and responsibilities. Accent also introduces a flexible workplace policy to encourage and support staff to achieve a balance between work and their other responsibilities. In addition, it plans to audit pay systems for sex bias, mentor female staff and revise its performance appraisal standards to achieve greater equality between male and female staff.

These measures are likely to constitute reasonable and proportionate measures under the positive duty.

* Nordom and Accent are fictional companies.

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