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Several standards protections that apply to human resources are found in the Australian legislation. Some examples include the Fair Work Act 2009, Fair Work Relations 2009, Public Sector Management Act 1995, Occupational Health, safety and Welfare, Work, and Radiation Protection and Control Act. The anti-discrimination laws include the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986, and Disability Discrimination Act 1992, among others. This paper will identify the relevant legislative provisions in Australia and, where applicable, contrast them with those in the United States. The differences will be highlighted, and the possible impacts on employers highlighted. This would also include the effects on employers in small businesses.
Standards Protections Found In Australian Legislation
One of the legislative provisions in the Australian legislation that offer protection when it comes to human resources in businesses includes the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair work).1 This was designed to ensure that workplace rights were upheld and standards guaranteed without compromising the competitive edge of the Australian marketplace. This provision in the Australian legislation provided a haven for employees, and it constitutes of two parts. These portions included the new modern awards and the National Employment Standards. Employees’ wages must have a certain minimum point that is to be observed by employers.2 The National Employment Standards comprised of the conditions provided to employers. The employers had to observe and adhere to the maximum hours the employees had to work in a week. They also had to see conditions for leave days, holidays, and notice of termination.3 Employees also had the right to request flexible working hours from employers.
The Fair Work Act of 2009 created the Fair Work Commission (FWC). It was one of the reforms to the industrial relations in the Rudd Government. The Fair Work Commission has several functions. One of the features includes the setting of the minimum wage. They also help resolve disputes and approve enterprise agreements.
Another legislative provision that affects human resources is the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.4 This was one of the legislations that marked the beginning of the journey towards achieving gender equality in Australian workplaces. One of the focuses of this legislation was that gender equality was to be observed when it came to pays. Both sexes were to receive equal pay for the same job. This legislation was also put in place to promote the elimination of discrimination based on caring and family responsibilities. It also aimed at collecting data to determine the extent to which gender equality is upheld in Australia. With this provision, the name (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency) was to be changed. It was changed to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
This particular provision was expected to have positive outcomes in the employment sector of Australia. Australia’s productivity was expected to increase, and the businesses were expected to perform better as the firms harnessed the country’s talent. One of the expectations from the non-public sector organizations was the provision of a report on the true reflection of the outcome of gender equality. This was to be done by all businesses that had at least a hundred employees. The data was to be collected and analyzed to assess the progress of workplace gender equality. This legislation significantly shaped the business world since organizations needed to embrace workplace gender equality. Therefore, employees required to ensure that both the women and men within the organization were treated equally. Men and women were entitled to equal pay for equal work. However, this legislative provision also works well for employers since it allows them to compare their performance with others in the industry. This helps organizations to develop strategies to improve their performance.
When compared to the legislative provisions in the United Stated, the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.5 This act also outlaws discrimination against women. However, several districts have passed legislative provisions that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (gays and lesbians). However, this provision is not available in Australian law. Therefore, this is one of the different laws. Furthermore, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been proposed. It prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. It is also stipulated that individuals should not be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation. This would apply for all employers with fifteen employees or more. Another contrast between the legislative provisions in the U.S. and Australia is that protection from discrimination based on gender identity is provided in the U.S. but not in Australia. This legislation was passed in 2007. Therefore, employers are expected to ensure the protection of such employees within their organizations.
Another provision in Australian law that focuses on human resources is the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986. It was designed to provide a scheme that would describe the rehabilitation and compensation of the employees.6 One of its objectives was to help strike a balance between the employer’s interests and those of the employees. The act also provided for how employers should help in the rehabilitation of their employees. Employers were required to reduce the incidence of employment-related accidents and injuries in the workplace. However, if accidents occurred, they were to ensure that the employees are rehabilitated effectively so that they could go back to work as soon as possible. The employers also had to provide fair compensation for injuries sustained in the line of duty. It also provided for the minimization of the economic and social costs of employment-related injuries. In favor of the employers, this act also ensured that the expenses incurred by the employer in compensating for employment-related injuries should be within reasonable limits.7 This was to minimize its impact on the business. This act also encouraged efficiency while discouraging the abuse of the employees.
When compared to the laws of the United States, the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 is similar to the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). This provision allows for the compensation for an injury, disability, or death in the line of duty. However, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) offers more benefits to the employees in the U.S. as compared to those in Australia. This program was initiated to provide monetary payments of a particular amount to contractors who were diagnosed with cancer due to exposure to radiation. Therefore, this contrasts with the provisions in Australia since this involves compensation for long-term diseases. In Australia, employers compensate for immediate injury in the workplace and strive to make the workplace safer for employees. In the U.S., compensation is also provided to individuals who contract diseases due to exposure to silica and beryllium in the workplace.
Another act passed in the Australian Parliament to deal with workplace issues is the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. It was meant to promote the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace and other areas such as accommodation, education, and provision of goods and services, among others. Therefore, employers are expected to offer equal employment opportunities to everyone. This means that a disabled person should have just as much chance to do a particular job as any other person as long as that person can do the job.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 is another provision in Australia that addresses issues in the workplace. It prohibits discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, or marital status. In the workplace, this action prevents the employer from dismissing an employee with family responsibilities. It also forbids sexual harassment in the workplace. This act also promotes gender equality in various contexts in society.8 Therefore, employers are expected to ensure that the pregnant or potentially pregnant women are treated with dignity bearing in mind that she may be unable to work as effectively as before. When compared to a provision in the U.S., the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 is similar to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). However, the difference is that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act also provides that such women should be equally considered when it comes to paying, training, and health insurance. This provision offers more cover and protection to women in the United States. This provision (in the U.S.) also ensures that employers treat pregnant women as temporarily disabled employees. Therefore, they should provide light duty, alternative assignments, and leave days. Also, this provision in the U.S. law considers pregnancy-related impairments as disabilities. They include hypertension induced by pregnancy and gestational diabetes, among others.
Another provision in Australia that protects human resources is the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. It was passed to make racial discrimination unlawful.9 Treating a particular individual less fairly than another due to his race, ethnic background, nationality, or color is prohibited in Australia. Therefore, employers are expected to provide equal opportunities for all races when it comes to employment. They should also provide equal opportunities for promotions and training.10
Another provision in the United States that offers protection for employees is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Australian laws do not provide this kind of protection. This provision prohibits discrimination based on age.11 The persons protected under this provision include people age 40 and above. Employers should also have retirement plans for their employees. Therefore, employers are not expected to practice such discrimination. They are also likely to provide a retirement plan, pensions, and benefits for all elderly employees.
The Privacy Act 1988 is a legislative provision in Australia that provides privacy rights for individuals. This law applies to small businesses, organizations, and private sector organizations dealing with healthcare services.12 This law gives individuals the right to know why some information about them is being inquired. Those storing the data are also expected to ensure that the data is kept safe to prevent loss or exploitation. The individual would also have the right to access that information. As for the Americans (U.S.), there may not be a particular law that regulates workplace privacy rights. This explains why workplace privacy disputes are typically solved using a combination of several laws. These laws include the common and state laws.
Moreover, the constitution does not assure privacy to employees. In addition to this, the Fourth Amendment protections are limited. They do not apply to those in the private sector.
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The Australia constitution provides several legislative provisions that protect Australian employees in the workplace. The provision of a haven for employees constitutes of two parts. These portions include the new modern awards and the National Employment Standards. Protections provided include protection against discrimination based on sex, age, race, and disability. The Australian laws also ensure the privacy of individual information in healthcare facilities and businesses. These laws have similarities with those in the U.S. but also contrast in several ways. These legislations dictate the behavior of the employers. For example, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 protects pregnant and potentially pregnant women. They are entitled to fair treatment when it comes to the amount of work provided or the leave days offered. The Fair Work Act 2009, on the other hand, ensures that the provision for minimum wage is adhered to, leave days provided, and the maximum hours worked per week not exceeded. All these laws protect employees in the workplace and shape human resource management in the organization.
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1 Rae Cooper and Brandon Ellem, “Fair Work and the Re-regulation of Collective Bargaining,” Australian Journal of Labour Law 22(2009): 294.
2 Rae Cooper, “The ‘New’ Industrial Relations and International Economic Crisis: Australia in 2009,” Journal of Industrial Relations 52(2009): 270.
3 Mirian Baird, Betty Frino and Sue Williamson, “Paid maternity and paternity leave and the emergence of ‘Equality bargaining’ in Australia: An analysis of Enterprise Agreements,” Australian Bulletin of Labour 35(2009): 678.
4 Watson, Ian, “Decomposing the Gender Pay Gap in the Australian Managerial Labour Market,” Australian Journal of Labour Economics 13(2010): 53.
5 Hiau Kee, “Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? Exploring the Australian Gender Pay Gap,” The Economic Record 82(2006): 408.
6 Gina Cass, Workers’ Benefit or Employers’ Burden: A History of Workers’ Compensation in New South Wales, 1880-1926 (Sydney: Industrial Relations Research Centre, 1983), 98.
7 Andrian Brooks, Occupational Health and Safety Law in Australia 4th edn, CCH (Sydney: Australia Ltd., 1993).
8 Lewins Greig, Inequality in Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 60.
9 George Williams, A bill of rights for Australia (Australia: University of New South Wales Press Ltd.), 2000.
10 David Partlett, “The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Anti-discrimination Act 1977: Aspects and Proposals for Change,” University of New South Wales Law Journal 17(1977): 152.
11 Marc Bendick, Lauren Lauren, and Kennington Wall, “No foot in the door: An experimental study of employment discrimination against older workers,” Journal of Aging and Social Policy 10(1999): 12.
12 Margaret Otlowski, “Disclosure of genetic information to at-risk relatives: Recent amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth),” MJA 187(2007): 398.