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Obligations to your clients and customers

Businesses and providers of goods and services have a legal responsibility to make sure that their customers and clients are treated fairly and with respect. Discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying will cost you time and money, reduce productivity and undermine your reputation. The Commission can work with you to help you meet your legal obligations and develop policies to prevent unlawful behaviour in your business.

Why does equal opportunity matter?

Business that provide goods and services can make a real difference to how connected Victorians feel to their communities, particularly for people with disabilities.

Nearly one third of all discrimination complaints to the Commission relate to goods and services. More than half of those are because of disability.

As a provider of goods, services or accommodation, your responsibilities are set out in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

The Commission can help you make sure you are meeting your obligations.

What are my obligations?

Organisations that provide goods, services, accommodation or healthcare have a responsibility ensure they do so without discrimination.

They also have a responsibility to make sure their premises and services are safe and free from sexual harassment or victimisation.

Your obligations apply to your customers, clients and people who use your services.

While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.

You can be held legally responsible for incidents of:

You also have responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The positive duty

Equal opportunity is about more than just fixing issues as they arise. Genuine equal opportunity means creating an environment where unfair treatment and problem behaviour is unlikely to happen in the first place.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, organisations have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible. This means that positive action should be taken to prevent these behaviours – regardless of whether someone has made a complaint.

Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.

Organisations must also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.

The positive duty is about addressing the systemic causes of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

The positive duty for providers of goods and services

Meeting your positive duty towards your customers and clients might include:

  • surveying your clients or customers about their experiences in accessing goods and services
  • reviewing the survey data to find out if there are any problems or barriers to equal opportunity
  • designing policies that address barriers to equal opportunity and prevent sexual harassment
  • educating staff on their obligations in delivering goods and services, including an awareness of diversity and inclusion.

The positive duty for accommodation providers

If you’re a landlord who manages your own properties, meeting your positive duty might include:

  • only seeking relevant information from rental applicants
  • not making decisions based on protected characteristics such as race, age, sex or disability
  • making sure your agents know you expect them to comply with the law.

For other providers of accommodation, meeting your positive duty might include:

  • providing training and have written policies for your staff about the Equal Opportunity Act and unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment
  • looking for ways that people accessing your property may be unfairly disadvantaged and adopting practices to minimise the risk of discrimination.

Find out more about the positive duty

Does the Charter apply?

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act (the Charter) is a Victorian law that sets out the basic rights, freedoms and responsibilities of all people in Victoria. It is about the relationship between government and the people it serves.

The Charter requires public authorities, such as Victorian state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of government, to act consistently with the human rights in the Charter.

If your organisation is a public authority under the Charter, including if you deliver certain goods, services or accommodation on behalf of a public authority, you can find more about your responsibilities in the For public sector section of our website.

How can the Commission help?

The Commission has a range of tools and services to help businesses, employers and organisations meet their responsibilities under the Equal Opportunity Act.

We provide tailored education services, including support to organisations to develop equality action plans.

We can carry out organisational reviews to strengthen policies, processes and systems to improve workplace safety.

Our reviews are suitable for organisations of all sizes and across all industries. We always tailor the size and scope of the work to meet an organisation’s needs and budget. We also have experience in major organisational review that reflects our expertise, for example see our Independent Review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in Victoria Police.

Contact us

We welcome calls from businesses, organisations and employers who would like more information about how we can help them meet their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act.

Contact our Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153, chat with us online or email enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au.

Related resources

Guideline: Preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment – Complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 – Aug 20