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Amendments to Australia’s anti-discrimination laws

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The Federal Government recently enacted the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act 2009 (Cth). This legislation amends existing anti-discrimination laws to make it easier for employees to claim that discrimination has occurred.

Employers and businesses should be aware of the following important changes:

Disability Discrimination

  1. Employers and businesses are now under a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with a disability. A “reasonable adjustment” is an adjustment that does not impose an unjustifiable hardship on the person making the adjustments.
  2. Employers are now required to prove that any conditions or requirements that they impose on employees with a disability are reasonable in the circumstances.
  3. The “inherent requirements” defence to a discrimination claim, which provides that it is not unlawful to discriminate against an employee who is unable to comply with the inherent requirements of the position, now applies in a wider range of employment situations and is not confined to offers of employment and dismissals.
  4. The definition of a disability has been amended to explicitly include:
  • a genetic predisposition to a disability
  • behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of a disability

Age Discrimination

Previously, discrimination only occurred when a person’s age was the ”dominant reason” for the alleged discriminatory behaviour. Under the amended legislation, discrimination will be considered to have occurred if the person’s age is one of the reasons for the alleged discriminatory behaviour.

The changed laws place greater responsibility on employers in complying with the anti-discrimination laws. Employers should review their workplace policies and practices in light of these legislative changes. In addition, employers should consider conducting refresher training courses for their staff to ensure that their workplaces remain discrimination free.

Contact us if you would like to discuss the implications of these changes on your business.

Author: Laughlin Nicholls