Workplace terms and conditions should be fair and non-discriminatory. A person’s background or personal characteristics should generally not influence:
- employment as a permanent, casual, full-time or part-time
- hours of work
- wages, salary levels or remuneration packages
- any other terms and conditions the person offered at the start of employment.
Awards and agreements
Some employment benefits and conditions are set down in awards, enterprise agreements or individual employment contracts.
During negotiations about award conditions or enterprise agreements, all employees in the workplace should be consulted to make sure that there is no unfair disadvantage or indirect discrimination.
For example, a requirement for employees to work 12-hour shifts may appear to treat everyone equally. However, it may have the effect of disadvantaging employees with family or carer responsibilities.
Regardless of their background or personal characteristics, all employees should have access to professional development opportunities such as:
• skills rotation
Negative stereotypes can commonly lead to instances of discrimination in the workplace. For example, assumptions that:
- older workers are less able to learn new skills
- people with disability create more difficulties or costs for the organisation
- women will leave the workforce to raise children
- newly-arrived refugees won’t be able to develop the necessary English-language skills.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, an employer must, as far as reasonable, provide and maintain a working environment for employees that is safe and without risks to health.
This means that employers can impose standards of dress that may discriminate, where it is reasonable and necessary to maintain workplace safety.
Employers can also be held legally responsible for acts of discrimination by their employees. This is known as vicarious liability and employers should take reasonable precautions to reduce this risk.
Complaints to the Commission
An employee can lodge a complaint of discrimination with the Commission if they believe they have been treated unfairly or denied legitimate employment opportunities because of a personal characteristic that is protected under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.