Equal Opportunity in the workplace

The requirement for equal opportunity constitutes one of the most fundamental elements of Australian employee and employer relationships. For workers in Western Australia who feel they have a legitimate equal opportunity claim, I offer representation and guidance in workplace mediation and other dispute resolution forums, for example the anti-bullying panel of the Fair Work Commission. For both employees and companies, I can provide more than 40 years’ experience in this area.

Most Australians whether they are employers or employees would assume that in this day and age there is mandated equal opportunity in the workplace.

However the level of legislative intervention to ensure that this is so is remarkably modest given the public perception of the right to equal opportunity at work.

The Fair Work Act empowers the Fair Work Commission to make equal remuneration orders, and as a general rule modern awards and collective enterprise agreements do not permit discrimination in salary and wage rates based on gender.

Precious little progress has been made to mandate meaningful equal opportunity in advancement and career opportunities, and I would suggest that most Australians would regard this as regrettable.

Most legislative attempts to foster equal opportunity in the workplace have failed to secure real progress because they come at the issue by focusing on the cause of the problem namely discrimination rather than by emphasizing the objective which is equal opportunity.

There has been some progress with the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act, and also parental leave provisions, but the Fair Work Commission is receiving relatively low levels of applications about breaches of the general protections provisions in the context of discrimination and equal opportunity. The jurisdiction must also be exercised by the Federal Court which is a complex and costly place to litigate; so the State equal opportunity tribunals are busy, and the anti-bullying panel of the Fair Work Commission is also available for inexpensive and user friendly hearings if discrimination can also be described as bullying as sometimes it can.

The Federal Court of Australia has recently dramatically re-written the legal landscape for compensation for sexual harassment; you may read about this in a blog I have posted on 17 July 2014.

My employment blog page contains various posts which I have written, and which I manage to keep updated daily, about a wide range of interesting and in some cases very tricky workplace issues including developments in anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws for the workplace, and case law. There is an extensive index which will enable you to research any issue of interest to you, and to browse hundreds of workplace issues.