By Joanna Weekes
As an employer you have a duty to protect the safety and welfare of your workers. This includes ensuring that no one is unfairly discriminated against in your workplace.
So what is discrimination?
Discrimination means treating a person or group less favourably than another person or group due to their circumstances or personal characteristics. These include a person’s:
- religious belief;
- sexual orientation;
- marital status;
- political belief or activity;
- union membership or activity;
- impairment or disability (whether temporary or permanent); or
- obligations as a parent or carer.
Discrimination can be direct or indirect
Direct discrimination means treating a person with a particular attribute differently than a person without that attribute, e.g. not hiring someone because they subscribe to a certain religion.
Indirect discrimination means imposing a requirement that someone with a certain attribute cannot comply with, e.g. requiring a worker with family responsibilities to work weekends.
Treating a person differently because of some other activity or characteristic, e.g. the football team they follow, is not unlawful discrimination, but it could be considered bullying behaviour.
How you can prevent discrimination in the workplace
Discrimination may be caused by you as an employer or by other workers, but you still have the responsibility to monitor, manage and help prevent discrimination in your workplace.
To do this, take the following steps:
- educate all your workers about discrimination;
- encourage workers to respect each other’s differences;
- respond to any evidence or complaints of inappropriate behaviour;
- deal with any complaints of discrimination promptly and confidentially;
- develop a workplace policy that prohibits discrimination;
- train supervisors and managers on how to respond to discrimination in the workplace;
- make sure the workplace policy is properly enforced; and
- review the policy regularly to ensure that its effectiveness is maintained.
To find out more about how you can prevent discrimination in your workplace, see chapter D5 Discrimination and Harassment.