Changes pending to federal anti-discrimination laws

The federal government is proposing to harmonise the 5 separate acts into a single statute in the current term of parliament and while this will remove much of the confusion arising from the disjointed nature of the current laws, there will be a sting in the tail for employers from the proposal to introduce a reverse onus of proof.

Unlike the single piece of State anti-discrimination law, there are currently 5 separate pieces of federal anti-discrimination law that regulate the requirements of employers in the areas of:

–          age discrimination

–          disability discrimination

–          racial discrimination

–          sex discrimination.

The proposed changes to the federal laws impact on all employers – whether they operate in the NSW State system or under the Federal Fair Work Act.

This means that employers will need to prove that any action allegedly taken by them was not for a prohibited reason ie because of the sex, age, race or disability of their employee (as compared with the current situation where the complainant bears the task of proving their case against their employer).

The proposed single statute will also include the ability for employers to seek certification by the Human Rights Commission that their policies and training processes are ‘code compliant’ – such compliance will constitute a defence against discrimination claims against their organisation.

For details on what actions employers can take to prepare for the proposed changes, see our February eNewsletter

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