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Australia: Equal opportunities

Original and updating authors: Shana Schreier-Joffe and Dean Tolkin

Consultant editor: Nicholas Furlan

Summary

  • Federal and state/territory legislation prohibits discrimination in relation to employment based on a range of protected characteristics, including age, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding and family responsibilities. (See General)
  • Both direct and indirect discrimination are generally prohibited, and special rules apply in areas such as disability discrimination. (See Specific provisions)
  • Discrimination on grounds of certain protected characteristics may be permitted in certain circumstances, for example where there is a "genuine occupational qualification" that a particular position be held by a person of a particular sex. (See Exceptions)
  • Sexual harassment by an employer or employee of an employee or job applicant is unlawful, and certain other types of harassment are also prohibited. (See Harassment and sexual harassment)
  • An employer must not subject an employee to any detriment because the employee has taken, or proposes to take, actions such as making a complaint or bringing proceedings under human rights and equal opportunity legislation. (See Victimisation)
  • Employers are permitted to take certain positive action measures aimed at achieving equality or equal opportunities, for example between men and women, or for people with disabilities. (See Positive action)
  • Certain employers with 100 or more employees must make an annual report on a set of gender equality indicators, and relevant employers with 500 or more employees must comply with statutory minimum standards in relation to these indicators. (See Gender equality indicators)
  • Individuals who believe that they have suffered unlawful discrimination may make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or an analogous state-level or territory-level body and, if this does not resolve the issue, bring a court case seeking remedies such as compensation. (See Remedies and penalties)