Federal government refuses action on trans workplace discrimination

The Australian Government has said it will not act on issues raised around the inadequacy of workplace laws to protect trans, intersex, and gender diverse employees.

Federal Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter has responded to an enquiry from advocacy group just.equal, saying that no change to existing law is being considered.

The group is now looking to Labor and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to push for change.

Just.equal wrote to Porter last month, explaining that definitions used in the Fair Work Act 2009 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 created inconsistencies, vulnerability, and additional costs for trans people seeking redress from discrimination or unlawful termination.

Spokesperson for just.equal Ivan Hinton-Teoh said the group had proposed the Fair Work Act be amended to include gender identity and intersex status as grounds for lodging a complaint of workplace discrimination, mirroring protections currently in the Sex Discrimination Act.

A response from the Minister’s office said that while the government “noted the discrepancies” between the two acts, the government is “not proposing any change”.

“At this point in time, the Australian Government has not indicated an intention to amend the Fair Work Act to explicitly include gender identity or intersex status as grounds for lodging an adverse action or unlawful termination application,” they wrote.

Hinton-Teoh said the response was very disappointing and illustrated a lack of concern from the government about increasing discrimination against trans people in recent years.

“It’s not a lot to ask that the definitions used in the [Sex Discrimination Act] also be used in the [Fair Work Act],” said Hinton-Teoh.

“This is a tiny legislative change but would make a huge difference to many people.”

The letter from the Attorney General’s office stated that the federal government “believes that all people are entitled to respect, dignity, and the opportunity to participate in society and receive the protection of the law regardless of their gender identity or intersex status”.

Trans community advocate Dr Charlie Burton said that Porter’s words were not matched with action.

“If the government recognises the existence of trans and intersex people, and believes we are entitled to receive the protection of the law, then fixing up the Fair Work Act with a simple amendment to help achieve this goal is a no-brainer,” Dr Burton said.

Just.equal has written to Labor’s Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke and Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus prompting them to take the initiative in amending the Fair Work Act.

It is awaiting responses from both.

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