Sex and Age Discrimination Laws Ammended in Australia

Canberra, ACT, Australia ( May 26, 2011

Sex and Age Discrimination Laws Ammended in Australia

Sex and Age Discrimination Laws Ammended in Australia

Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis today welcomed the passage through Parliament of the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2010.

The new law will provide greater protections by:

  • prohibiting discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities for both men and women in all areas of employment;
  • establishing breastfeeding as a separate ground of discrimination, and allowing measures to be taken to accommodate the needs of breastfeeding mothers; and
  • bringing in new protections for students from sexual harassment, including over the internet or by texting.

The Bill also creates the position of Age Discrimination Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission for the first time, which will be made possible by new funding of $5.7 million for the Commission.

“The Bill provides stronger protections for employees and students from sexual harassment,” said Mr McClelland.

“The workplace and schools should be places where people feel respected, valued and safe – they are not places for intimidation or sexual harassment.

“These changes recognise sexual harassment can occur in many different forms in the workplace and expands the protections to include sexual harassment from co-workers or supervisors, colleagues in other organisations or customers and clients.

“Importantly, the Bill also ensures that all students will be better protected from sexual harassment, whether it’s in the schoolyard, online or through more subtle forms of bullying, such as through text message.”

The Bill had also included amendments to strengthen protections against indirect discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities.  These provisions were opposed by the Opposition in the Senate.

The amendments would have brought the Sex Discrimination Act into line with protections against indirect discrimination already available in State and Territory anti-discrimination legislation and the Fair Work Act 2009.

“While the Bill does not include this additional protection for Australian families, I am pleased that we have been able to strengthen the Sex Discrimination Act to recognise the ground of family responsibilities in all areas of employment,” said Mr McClelland.

Ms Ellis said the improvements are timely given 2011 is the centenary year of International Women’s Day.

“By explicitly extending harassment and discrimination protections to include family responsibilities and the right of women to breastfeed, these amendments will make a positive difference for employees around the country,” Ms Ellis said.

“Recognition of this in these changes to the Sex Discrimination Act legislation will ensure that parents can now be protected when making equitable choices for their work and caring responsibilities.”

Mr McClelland said it’s expected the new Age Discrimination Commissioner will start work at the Australian Human Rights Commission in July.

“The Age Discrimination Commissioner will tackle the attitudes and stereotypes that can contribute to age discrimination at any age,” he said.

“The Government strongly believes people susceptible to age discrimination – young or old – deserve a dedicated advocate.”

“The new Commissioner will play an important role in raising awareness among employers about the benefits that can be realised from the valuable contributions that senior Australians as well as younger employees can make, including in the workforce.”

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