Provide stronger protections against discrimination, adverse action and harassment

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View the Stronger Protections for Workers consultation paper


  • The Fair Work Act 2009 includes a range of protections against discrimination in employment in relation to the following attributes: race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, breastfeeding, gender identity, intersex status, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.
  • This includes a prohibition on adverse action for a discriminatory reason, protection against unlawful termination for a discriminatory reason and provisions preventing discriminatory terms being included in modern awards and enterprise agreements. The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 also inserted an express prohibition against workplace sexual harassment.
  • There is a range of other legislation that also prohibits workplace discrimination in Australia. There are four separate anti-discrimination laws at the Commonwealth level, each of which deals with different attributes:
    1. Racial Discrimination Act 1975
    2. Sex Discrimination Act 1984
    3. Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and
    4. Age Discrimination Act 2004.
  • A fifth Act, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, establishes the Australian Human Rights Commission and regulates the processes for making and resolving complaints.
  • The states and territories also have anti-discrimination laws, which protect against discrimination based on various attributes.
  • At the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit, the Government committed to update the Fair Work Act to provide stronger protections for workers against discrimination, adverse action and harassment. This presents an opportunity to consider options to improve the effectiveness and consistency of the Fair Work anti-discrimination and adverse action framework.


  • The following principles will guide development of reforms to the Fair Work Act anti-discrimination framework.
    • Alignment and consistency with key features of anti-discrimination law, including terminology and definitions.
    • Protected attributes in the Fair Work Act 2009 are consistent with community expectations and best practice language.
    • Exemptions from anti-discrimination provisions are clear and relevant.
    • Protections for national and non-national system employees are consistent and fair.

Key question

What reforms do you want to see to the Fair Work Act’s anti-discrimination and adverse action framework and why?