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Equal opportunity for employers

Achieve greater productivity and avoid staff disputes

On this page

  • Understand your positive duty as an employer
  • Know the different types of workplace discrimination and harassment
  • Use our HR manual template to create your equal opportunity policy
  • Tips on how to prevent discrimination in your workplace

Employer responsibilities

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, employers have a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate the following.

Discrimination

Discrimination is treating someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law such as sex, race or disability.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides more information about workplace discrimination and harassment, and a full list of the types of workplace discrimination.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment describes a wide range of unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, which could reasonably be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides more details about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Bullying

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees, which offends, humiliates, intimidates or degrades. It is seen as a workplace hazard and can be reported as discrimination.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides more details about workplace bullying.

Victimisation

Should a member of staff lodge a complaint for any of the above reasons, an employer has a responsibility to ensure that a person is not victimised, or treated unfavourably, because he or she has made a complaint or supported another person to make a complaint.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides more details about victimisation.

Exceptions to the law

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, there are exceptions which can permit discrimination in certain circumstances. 

As an example, employers may limit the offering of a job to people of a particular sex if being that sex is a genuine and reasonable job requirement. However, employers should be aware that relying on an exception may not necessarily prevent a discrimination complaint being made against them.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides more details about exceptions to the law.

Create an equal opportunity policy

Your workplace needs a written policy which is openly displayed and which all employees – including new starters – are trained in. 

Your Human Resources Manual should include an equal opportunity policy and information about discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace. This can help you comply with your legal obligations – including positive duty.

Our HR manual template has everything you'll need to create your equal opportunity policy, including:

  • a clear indication that unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated
  • examples of the kinds of behaviour which are unacceptable
  • how employees might manage discrimination and sexual harassment
  • how complaints will be handled and escalated when necessary
  • protections against victimisation
  • how the business will handle reasonable adjustments
  • flexible working arrangments for parents and carers.

 Use our HR manual template below to create policies for your business.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)DOCX icon

How to prevent discrimination

Once you understand your responsibilities, and have created policies for your business, it's important to find ways to prevent issues before they develop into a complaint.  

Follow our tips below to help you prevent discrimination in the workplace.  

Educate your staff

It's important to educate your staff and make sure they understand what their rights are – and what your equal opportunities policies are – so they can play a major role in ensuring they're carried out.  

You should:

  • create a policy document
  • make sure staff have read it – and understand it
  • train an Equal Opportunity Officer
  • encourage staff to report any incidences.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission offers training for staff members about workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation.

Know your dispute resolution procedures

Knowing what your procedures are ensures disputes can be dealt with quickly – without escalation.

Our HR manual template provides clear procedures for taking and dealing with complaints. Adjust the template to suit your business needs. 

Communicate regularly with your staff

One of the best ways to prevent issues before they escalate is by getting to know your staff well. 

Having clear, open channels of communication with your staff can bring to your attention any issues early – giving you an opportunity to prevent those issues getting any worse.

Learn more about communication skills for managers.