Bosses would be prohibited from discriminating against workers because they are victims of domestic violence under changes to be considered by parliament from September.
The proposed change means employers will not be allowed to sack, demote, unfairly change rosters or cut work hours of their staff on the basis that they have experienced domestic violence.
Unveiled by Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, the proposed change is part of a wider set of industrial relations reforms that will also clamp down on labour hire, regulate the gig economy and criminalise wage theft.
Speaking at the 2023 Kingsley Laffer Memorial Lecture at the University of Sydney on Thursday night, Mr Burke said “violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should the law”.
“That’s why these proposed changes are so important – ensuring that workers are not penalised in any way if they disclose that they have been subjected to family and domestic violence,” he said.
Under the proposed changes, employers will be expressly prohibited from taking adverse action against employees because they have been subjected to family and domestic violence by making it a “protected attribute” under the Act.
Currently, Australia’s workplace laws stipulate that employees and prospective employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of a number of ‘protected attributes’. These include race, sex age, marital status, disability and sexual orientation.
It would also be illegal for bosses to refuse to hire a prospective employee on the basis that they are a domestic violence victim.
Separately, the changes would forbid agreement and awards terms that discriminate against domestic violence victim-survivors.
Calls for the government to stamp out discrimination against domestic violence victims follows a ruling by the industrial umpire in June that a pharmacy assistant was unfairly dismissed for accessing unpaid domestic violence leave to care for her nine-year-old son, who she alleged had been assaulted by her ex-husband.
The proposal follows the introduction of 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave as part of the National Employment Standards for permanent and casual workers.