Our workplace laws have changed. Some of those changes are now in effect for all businesses (regardless of size).

Has your business prepared?

Would you meet your employer obligations and be able to prove your compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), the Sexual Discrimination Act (Cth) 1984 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, if your business was scrutinised by an external regulator?

We summarise below 3 areas you must prepare for (if you haven’t done so already).

  • Positive duty – effective December 2022
  • Family and domestic violence leave
    • effective February 2023 for non-small business employers with more than 15 employees.
    • effective August 2023 for small business employers with 15 or less employees. 
  • Psychosocial risk management – effective April 2023

Positive duty (effective December 2022)

Businesses now have a ‘positive duty’ to eliminate (if possible) and put in place measures to prevent their employees, customers/clients, suppliers and others associated with their business, from engaging in (or being subjected to): sexual harassment, sex-based harassment, sex discrimination and victimisation.

A ‘positive duty’ extends to the working environment. A sexually-charged workplace (referred to as a ‘hostile workplace’) is a work environment that a ‘reasonable person’ may find offensive, intimidating and humiliating.

Your business is unique. There is no ‘blanket’ solution. Review any past ‘complaints’, incident reports and exit interviews. This will give you a ‘good sense’ of any potential risks. Also, consult with your people (e.g. at tool box talks, meetings and conduct a survey of your workplace) about your ‘positive duty’.

A review and update your existing workplace policies and training of your people is a good start, but it’s not enough. You also need to actively conduct a risk assessment to identify any areas of concern and implement control measures to manage any risks.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) provides guidance for employers to assist businesses to meet compliance. https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/positive-duty-supporting-safe-inclusive-and-respectful-workplaces

Family and domestic violence leave effective February 2023 for non-small business employers (effective August 2023 for small business employers)

The National Employment Standards provide that all employees (including casuals) are entitled to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave (per each year of service).

You must inform your employees that this paid leave entitlement is available, if ever they should need it. Importantly, your office and payroll people must handle an employee’s leave request and any personal information of the employee (that may relate to family and domestic violence), sensitively, and maintain the employee’s privacy and confidentiality.

Your office/payroll people may not know that family and domestic leave cannot be recorded on an employee’s payslip.

Review your procedures and record keeping to make sure leave requests/records and any supporting documentation that relate to family and domestic violence leave are managed appropriately and are kept private and confidential.

Be aware that your employees (as well as potential employees), are protected under the Fair Work Act. ‘Subjection to family and domestic violence’ is now a ‘protected attribute’. This means that an employer may not terminate or performance manage or take any adverse action because the employee was being subjected to family and domestic violence.

Psychosocial risk management (effective April 2023)

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, an employer is required to eliminate or minimise anything that may cause harm to a worker’s mental health.

Employers must identify and assess the risk of psychosocial hazards in their workplace(s): present or emerging. Your risk assessment process must include consultation with your people at all stages of the risk management process before putting control measures in place to either eliminate or minimise the risks (hazards).

Examples of psychosocial hazards include (but not limited to): poor change management, lack of role clarity, workplace bullying, conflict or poor workplace relationships, poor support, high and low job demands.

Work Health and Safety Queensland have published a detailed code of practice that provides guidance for employers. https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/resources/videos/webinars/managing-the-risk-of-psychosocial-hazards-code-of-practice-livestream-recording

Where to from here? We understand that you may not have the resources or expertise to meet your employer obligations under our new workplace laws to ensure the health and safety of your people.

Ulton HR Consulting Services can help. We can provide HR/ Work Health and Safety (WHS) advice and support to assist you with meeting your employer obligations and comply with our workplace legislation.

Please email Christine Guy, HR Consultant, at cguy@ulton.net or call her direct on (07) 4154 0413.

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