Fair and Equal in the World of Work: Two Significant Federal Developments in Discrimination Law
The University of Sydney Law School
January 4, 2010
Australian Journal of Labour Law, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 199-219, 2010
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/04
Two recent discrimination law reforms represent a significant strengthening of human rights in Australia, particularly for persons with disability, bringing the right to equality in from the cold and more squarely into the industrial realm where workplace terms and conditions are determined and regulated. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), replacing the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth), introduces new discrimination provisions that may expand anti-discrimination rights and, at the very least, brings the Fair Work Ombudsman’s powers and resources to the enforcement of anti-discrimination rights in work. This reflects a major regulatory shift that has both symbolic and instrumental potential to promote equality as an employment right not merely a moral claim.
The Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Act 2009 (Cth) amended the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and other Acts. Most fundamentally, the DDA changes make express that employers (and other duty holders) have an obligation to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable the equal economic and social participation of persons with disability.
After briefly identifying regulatory weaknesses of Australian anti-discrimination laws to date, I outline the new provisions and analyse how they might operate. These changes provide new rights and enforcement means for victims of discrimination but with some outstanding questions and issues.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: discrimination, work, disability, Australia, law, Fair Work Act, reasonable adjustments, regulatory
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K31
Date posted: January 5, 2010 ; Last revised: April 1, 2015