Know your rights: Discrimination in the workplace

Legal framework for discrimination in the workplace

1. State Legislation

It is interesting to note that Australia’s discrimination laws, with the exception of Victoria, were largely established prior to the country’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008.

Because the laws in most states and territories predate this crucial international commitment, they were formulated in a different era, reflecting the societal understanding and expectations prevalent at the time.  Future reform is needed to align state legislation more strongly with the rights based framework outlined in the UNCRPD.

Here is a list of links to the relevant legislation in each state and territory:

2. National Legislation

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)

The DDA is a federal law that addresses discrimination on the grounds of disability, including blindness or vision impairment.  Key provisions relevant to the workplace include:

  • Prohibition of Discrimination
    Employers cannot discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their disability.
  • Reasonable Adjustments
    Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure equal participation in employment for individuals with disabilities, such as providing accessible workspaces or technology.
  • Access to Goods, Services, and Facilities
    Employers must ensure that employees with blindness or vision impairment have equal access to facilities, training, and any other opportunities related to employment.

3. International Context

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

Ratification signifies a commitment by the Australian government to uphold the principles outlined in the convention.  It sets a contemporary and comprehensive standard for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities, and promoting accessibility, and the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities across various domains, including employment.

While the entire convention is relevant, there are specific articles that employers should be aware of in the context of accommodating individuals who are blind or vision impaired in the workplace as follows:

  • Article 5 – Equality and Non-Discrimination
    Emphasises the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Employers should ensure that individuals who are blind or vision impaired are treated on an equal basis with others in all aspects of employment.
  • Article 9 – Accessibility
    Focuses on accessibility, emphasising the importance of making the physical environment, information, and communication accessible to persons with disabilities. Employers should take steps to ensure that workplaces and information are accessible to employees who are blind or vision impaired.
  • Article 24 – Education
    highlights the right to education for persons with disabilities. Employers should consider this in providing accessible professional development training and educational opportunities for employees who are blind or vision impaired.
  • Article 27 – Work and Employment
    Specifically addresses the right to work and employment. Employers should pay attention to ensuring that people who are blind or vision impaired have the opportunity to gain and maintain employment on an equal basis with others.
  • Article 30 – Participation in Cultural Life, Recreation, Leisure, and Sport
    Underscores the right of persons with disabilities to participate in cultural life and recreation. Employers should be mindful of creating inclusive workplace cultures that allow employees who are blind or vision impaired to fully participate in all aspects of work-related activities.
  • Article 31 – Statistics and Data Collection
    Stresses the importance of collecting and maintaining statistical information to assess the implementation of the convention. Employers may find it valuable to keep records and data related to the inclusion and accommodation of employees who are blind or vision impaired.
  • Article 33 – National Implementation and Monitoring
    Outlines the establishment of focal points and the creation of monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the convention at the national level. Employers should be aware of national mechanisms related to disability rights and compliance.