Equal opportunity and diversity overview

Diversity in the workplace means that you employ people from a wide range of backgrounds. Working with a team of diverse employees will enhance your business through different perspectives, experience and knowledge.

Diversity can be good for business, it promotes:

  • better business performance and productivity from employees
  • more creative and innovative thinking among staff
  • improved staff health and wellbeing
  • lower risk of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

In Australia, national and state laws cover equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination in the workplace. As an employer, you must understand your rights and responsibilities under human rights and anti-discrimination law.

It's unlawful to disadvantage employees and job seekers in any way because of their:

  • race
  • colour
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • intersex status
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction (place of birth or ancestry)
  • social origin (class, caste or socio-occupational category)
  • industrial activities (such as belonging to a trade union)

Employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

As an employer, you can increase your understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' experiences. Your understanding will help you provide appropriate and respectful opportunities for job seekers from these communities.

Employing CALD people

Australia is a multicultural society. Almost half of the population were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

A culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) workplace means having employees who:

  • are from different countries
  • have different cultural backgrounds
  • can speak multiple languages
  • are from different areas in Australia
  • follow different religions

CALD employees provide additional perspectives and experience, they can help you:

  • understand Australia’s multicultural consumers
  • provide better customer service by using their language and cultural skills
  • provide access to new market segments and networks
  • expand internationally to overseas markets

CALD employees and your workplace

Make sure your workplace is ready to embrace diversity. You can:

  • develop workplace policies and training that promote cross-cultural awareness
  • hold lunches and events that celebrate workplace diversity and encourage employees to share their cultures and experiences
  • set up mentoring arrangements that match employees from different backgrounds, to encourage open communication
  • find out when significant cultural and religious events and days are on, so you can anticipate leave requests and plan celebrations in the workplace

Employing people with disability

People with disability work in all industries, in many different roles, and bring a range of skills, qualifications, talents and experience to business.

Evidence has shown that employees with disability tend to:

  • take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs for longer than other workers
  • have fewer compensation incidents and accidents at work compared to other workers
  • build strong relationships with customers
  • boost workplace morale and enhance teamwork

As an employer of people with disability, you must be aware of the special national minimum wages that could apply.

Prepare your workplace

If you employ or interview someone with disability, you may need to make changes to your workplace to ensure it's accessible. Most people with disability won't need changes to the workplace, so it's a good idea to chat with them first.

Changes to your workplace could include:

  • modifying the physical environment
  • accessible car parking
  • accessible sanitary facilities
  • accessible room requirements in accommodation buildings
  • making work arrangements more flexible

Employer support

As an employer, you can access a range of government programs to help you employ people with disability:

  • Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support is an incentive paid to employers who employ an eligible Australian Apprentice with disability.
  • Job Access can help you with free, confidential advice about employing people with disability and the financial help available to employers.
  • Wage subsidies can help employers with paying wages and training costs in the first few months of employing a person with a disability.
  • The Supported Wage System supports people with disability who are not able to perform jobs at the same capacity as any other employee

Employee support

Your employees with disability also have support available to help them adjust to their workplace:

International Day of People with Disability

December 3rd is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD). The day celebrates the achievements of people with a disability and aims to raise awareness and acceptance of all people.

IDPwD aims to:

  • bring together businesses, governments and communities to recognise the contributions and celebrate the accomplishments of people with disability
  • promote the understanding of people with a disability
  • encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being

Learn how you can celebrate the day in your workplace on the International Day of People with Disability website.

Employing mature aged people

Mature aged workers often have built up knowledge and skills during their time in the workforce, so they can help you to:

  • look at your business operations from a different perspective
  • improve your business processes
  • fill any skill or knowledge gaps in your workplace
  • provide mentoring to less experienced employees
  • train up your employees by sharing skills

There is evidence that mature aged workers can:

  • save you money due to lower rates of absenteeism
  • make your business more productive
  • help you learn and adjust to new technologies in the workplace

Working with new parents

Employees may be entitled to unpaid parental leave when a new child is born or adopted.

Australian Government Paid Parental Leave scheme

Employees can also have extra entitlements, such as paid parental leave. This leave could occur under an award, agreement, company policy or law, such as the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave scheme.

The Australian Government Parental Leave Pay provides eligible working parents who are the primary carer of a newborn or newly adopted child with a maximum of 18 weeks of Government-funded pay based on the national minimum wage.

Working dads or partners are eligible to receive up to two weeks of Government-funded pay based on the national minimum wage, called Dad and Partner Pay.

You can provide support to new parents by maintaining regular contact during parental leave. If both employee and employer agree, your employee can come to work for up to 10 paid Keeping in Touch days. These days won't affect your employees unpaid parental leave entitlements.

Employing young people

If you plan to hire young people under the age of 18, you will need to check with your local authority if you require a Working with Children check. The check may have a different title in your state or territory.

You can contact your state or territory office responsible for the checks through the following links:

Bullying and harassment

All employees have a right to work in a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that your workplace meets these rights.

Under Australian anti-discrimination law, an employer may be legally responsible for discrimination and harassment in the workplace. To minimise the risk of legal action as a result of this, employers can actively implement anti-discrimination policies and ensure they make staff aware of the consequences.

As well as discrimination, bullying is a form of workplace harassment that employers must address.

Bullying behaviour includes:

  • unfair and excessive criticism
  • publicly insulting victims
  • constantly changing or setting unrealistic work targets
  • undervaluing employees' efforts at work

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