Your Rights at Work
The legal rights of carers at work are covered by Commonwealth industrial relations laws, Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination laws and Commonwealth and State privacy laws. This Fact Sheet contains a brief overview of your rights at law as a working carer.
The Anti-Discrimination (Carers’ Responsibilities) Act 2000 (NSW) protects working carers from discrimination. Discrimination includes unfair treatment, harassment, dismissal or threatened dismissal, by anyone in your workplace. It is also against the law to treat you unfairly because someone thinks you have caring responsibilities now, did have in the past or will have in the future, or because of actual caring responsibilities in the past or future.
Under the Act, employers must reasonably accommodate the caring responsibilities of their employees, unless they can show that it would cause them unjustifiable hardship.
- Allowing staff to leave work on time
- Allowing staff to use a telephone to check on the person they support, make appointments, etc.
- Setting up flexible work arrangements such as flexitime, part-time work, job sharing, flexible rostering and making time up later
- Being flexible with the amount of paid or unpaid leave staff can take and when they can take it
- Allowing working from home on a temporary or long-term basis
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) provides female employees with protection from discrimination on the grounds of their family responsibilities. Family responsibilities are defined in the Act as the responsibility to care for or support a dependent child or immediate family member, being a spouse, adult child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee or of the spouse of the employee.
Concerns about sex discrimination can be taken to the Sex Discrimination Unit of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.
The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) enable you to keep private the name of the person you care for, their relationship to you and their illness or disability, and still talk to your employer about your caring responsibilities.
You or the person you care for may not wish it to be known that the care receiver has a mental illness, intellectual disability, HIV or hepatitis, or that the partner being cared for is a same-sex partner. Instead, you can provide a medical certificate to your employer that states, for example, “The patient has a condition which requires extensive care and support. This care and support is supplied by … [the employee]”.
Whether you tell your employer about the details of your caring responsibilities, or choose not to, employers must respect your privacy and not talk to other staff about your situation.
Depending on who you work for, you can take concerns about breaches of privacy to the Federal or NSW privacy commissioners.
What if I do experience discrimination or a breach of privacy?
If you do feel harassed or discriminated against, keep a log or diary of all incidents. Talk to the person or people first and try to resolve the issue. Your employer may have a policy in place to deal with workplace grievances that you can use. You can also get help from other sources such as trade unions.
If these methods don’t work, or aren’t appropriate, you can take your concerns to the appropriate body. There is a time limit between when incidents occurred and when you can make a complaint, so check these as soon as possible. You can get help with written complaints or applications from unions, community services, community legal centres and lawyers. This is particularly important if you have difficulties with written English. Many complaints are successfully resolved using mediation or conciliation. If this fails, you can go to the appropriate court or tribunal for a legal judgment.
For more information
For more information on the people covered by the various Acts and on making a complaint:
- check our Fact Sheet on Working Carers and Anti-Discrimination Laws (for the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, or see http://www.antidiscrimination.justice.nsw.gov.au/)
- check the website of the Sex Discrimination Unit at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination
- check the website of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission at www.airc.gov.au..
- check the website of the Office of the NSW Privacy Commissioner at http://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au, the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner at http://www.oaic.gov.au, or the Privacy Foundation at www.privacy.org.au.
- To find out the right union for where you work contact the Australian Council of Trade Unions at http://www.actu.org.au.