Human rights are designed to be available to everyone at all times, including places of business. The right to be free from discrimination is a basic human right, designed to protect both groups and individuals. 

Anti-discrimination rules prevent people from treating someone unfairly based on factors such as their gender, race, age, sexuality or any other group they may belong to. The right to be free from discrimination is secured by multiple Australian federal anti-discrimination laws. 

If you are running a business, then it’s important to comply with anti-discrimination laws at every turn. Customers, employees and all other stakeholders have the right to experience an environment that doesn’t discriminate against them. As a business owner, it’s your duty to take reasonable measures to provide this. 

What Are The Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws? 

In Australia, there are four main federal anti-discrimination laws. They are the following: 

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004 
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975 
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984

Each of these laws aim to prevent discrimination based on certain grounds. It’s important to note that discrimination can occur on more than the basis of age, disability, race or sex. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for individuals to face discrimination due to their socio-economic background, appearance, marital status and so much more. All of these forms of discrimination are prohibited, even if there isn’t legislation exclusively dedicated to it.  

State laws also cover anti-discrimination policies. Depending on where your business is located, it’s a good idea to brush up on your local anti-discrimination laws. Keep in mind though, federal legislation will always take priority over state or local regulations. Therefore, if you’re ever confused on what legislation to follow, then look to your federal laws. If you need any more clarification, our legal experts are always happy to help. 

Are There Any Other Laws I Should Be Aware Of?  

It’s important to be well informed regarding the institutions that deal with anti-discrimination laws. In this case, it’s the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). 

The AHRC was established by the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986. The AHRC is one of the primary agencies that deal with human rights complaints, which naturally includes discrimination. They investigate claims of discrimination, human rights breaches and can sometimes be involved in court matters.

The AHRC also provides guidelines, information and resources, so be sure to visit their website when doing your research. As the owner of a small business, it’s a good idea to check in from time to time to see what issues the AHRC are currently talking about, as they could relate to your business or industry. 

Why Do We Have Anti-Discrimination Laws In The Workplace?

Anti-discrimination laws in the workplace are necessary to ensure that employees aren’t facing any kind of harm while they are at work. Along with anti-discrimination laws, the workplace needs to adhere to the regulations in the Fair Work Act 2009, which also prevent employers from discriminating against their employees. 

The purpose of anti-discrimination laws aren’t just to promote a peaceful workplace however, they are also there to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities. According to anti-discrimination policies, an individual should never be denied a job, promotion or any other opportunity to advance in their career simply because they belong to a certain group.

Ultimately, anti-discrimination laws in the workplace are not just about the workplace – they are about the wider community. Enforcing fair and just practices in a business or any place of work aims to create a more harmonious society.

How Should I Implement Anti-Discrimination Legislation In My Business Operations? 

One simple way you can implement anti-discrimination legislation in your business operations is through polices and other company documents. Essentially, anti-discrimination laws set the minimum standard for how your business will behave with anyone that is involved with it. This means, your business policies and training should clearly communicate what constitutes acceptable behaviour. 

In order to do this, your business will need to have a strong set of anti-discrimination policies. After that, it’s a wise idea to get them drafted in legal documents such as Workplace Policies and Staff Handbooks. That way, you’ll be able to make sure that expectations have been clearly communicated to each employee. 

Anti-discriminations laws are not taken lightly, so it’s best to have the help of a legal expert. Moreover, if your business is accused of discriminatory practices, then it could lead to legal penalties, fines and a bad reputation (plus you could be in trouble through vicarious liability). 

Having well drafted documents is just one, basic step when trying to protect your employees from discrimination. However, when done correctly, it can make a significant difference.

How Else Should My Small Business Comply With Anti-Discrimination Laws? 

Anti-discrimination laws don’t just apply to employees or other businesses that interact with yours, customers and clients are also vulnerable to discrimination. As such, protecting your customers from discriminatory behaviour is essential. In order to do this, you need to be well aware of the rights your customers hold.

When dealing with customer rights, it’s important to get familiar with the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL determines the basic rights consumers have in Australia, which includes the right to be treated fairly. It’s important your business is able to reasonably accommodate all people and comply with the ACL at all times.

How a business chooses to enforce ACL standards will depend a lot on the individual circumstances of that business. However, it’s always worth seeking a professional consultation with a legal expert, so they can give you the right kind of guidance. As we noted, discrimination is an extremely serious matter, so it’s best not to guess your way through this one.

Next Steps

Australian federal anti-discrimination laws need to be taken seriously by all businesses. Ensure your business enforces these laws by having professionally drafted workplace policies and other staff guidelines. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Human rights, including the right to be free from discrimination, are fundamental and apply in places of business
  • Four main federal anti-discrimination laws in Australia cover age, disability, race and sex discrimination
  • Discrimination can occur on various grounds, and state laws also cover anti-discrimination policies but federal laws take precedence
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deals with human rights complaints, providing guidelines and resources
  • Anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, along with the Fair Work Act 2009, aim to create a fair and just environment, ensuring equal opportunities for all individuals
  • It’s important to have workplace policies that promote practices in line with anti-discrimination laws

If you would like a consultation on Australian federal anti-discrimination laws, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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