Employers troubled by new age, disability discrimination rules

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Employers troubled by new age, disability discrimination rules

Employers are concerned that legislation on disability and age discrimination currently being debated in Parliament will add further to the costs and difficulties of doing business.

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Employers are concerned that legislation on disability and age discrimination currently being debated in Parliament will add further to the costs and difficulties of doing business.
 
The Australian Financial review reports that under the legislation employers, businesses and people who own or control premises will face tougher obligations in accommodating people with disabilities.
 
Disability and age grounds wider
 
The legislation broadens the definition of disability to include a ‘genetic predisposition’ to a disability.
 
It also expands the scope for age discrimination claims by removing the requirement that it is age discrimination only if age is the ‘sole or dominant’ factor in an action.
 
There are fears that coupled with the Fair Work Bill currently under Senate Inquiry older workers could claim they are being discriminated against because of their age if made redundant.
 
‘Unintended consequences’
 
‘As we enter into a possible recessionary period, there is no clear policy rationale to introduce such changes that may have unintended consequences,’ ACCI said in a submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into the legislation.
 
The inquiry is due to report on 24 February, and the legislation could have a rocky road in the Senate where, if the Coalition opposes legislation, the Government needs the greens and both independents to get it passed.
 
Disability definition broader
 
ACCI is also claiming that vague definitions of disability could see people with drug, gambling or pornography addictions protected from discrimination at work.
 
It wants these category of addictions explicitly excluded from the legislation.
 
Employers also want exemption from discrimination claims when they were not aware of staff disabilities.
 
‘Unjustifiable hardship’ protection
 
The only concession from the Government so far is a statement from Attorney-General Robert McLelland that employers would be protected from taking steps that would ‘impose unjustifiable hardship’.
 
However, it would be up to employers to prove this was the case.
 
The Bill
 
Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 is available online.
 
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