New Bill strengthens age and sex discrimination protections

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New Bill strengthens age and sex discrimination protections

A new federal anti-discrimination Bill will strengthen existing protections against age and sex discrimination, as well as sexual harassment, for all workers.

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A new federal anti-discrimination Bill will strengthen existing protections against age and sex discrimination, as well as sexual harassment, for all workers.
 
The Sex and Age Discrimination Bill 2010, which was introduced into Parliament yesterday by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, improves upon the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, while also introducing a new dedicated position of Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
 
The Bill and its explanatory memorandum are available online.
 
Breastfeeding classified as separate ground for discrimination
 
Introducing the Bill, McClelland said the amendments to the Sex discrimination Act formed part of the government’s response to an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee into existing protections against sex discrimination and gender inequality.
 
The amended Act will:
  • ensure equal protection for women and men
  • broaden the prohibition on discrimination on the ground of family responsibilities, thereby providing greater flexibility for workers to fulfil their caring responsibilities
  • establish breastfeeding as a separate ground of discrimination, rather than a subset of sex discrimination
  • strengthen the protections against sexual harassment of workers in workplaces and students in schools.
 
Age Discrimination Commissioner to tackle stereotypes
 
Although McClelland acknowledged that the AHRC already had legal powers and functions to address aged discrimination, he said that Australia’s ageing population highlighted the need for a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner.
 
The Commissioner, who will have the same advocacy powers as other AHRC commissioners, will be responsible for engaging with stakeholders, including industry and community representatives to address discrimination in the workplace and community, to promote respect and fairness and tackle the attitudes and stereotypes that can contribute to age discrimination.
 
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