It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because of their parental or carer status.
In addition, employers are legally required to consider reasonable requests made by employees to accommodate their working arrangements so they can meet their responsibilities as carers or parents.
Who can have carer or parental status?
Carer status refers to someone who has total or substantial responsibility for ongoing care and support of another person. The dependent person may be a child, a partner, a parent, a relative or a friend.
Carer status does not apply to people who are paid to provide care and attention.
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 covers biological parents, step parents, foster parents, adoptive parents and guardians.
Examples of carer and parental status discrimination
Jasmine is keen to return to work as a marketing manager after taking two years of unpaid parental leave to have her first child. She makes an appointment with her boss to talk about coming back to work, but is told there has been a restructure in the company and Jasmine’s old job no longer exists. No other jobs have changed and Jasmine suspects that her boss simply doesn’t want to have to re-employ her now that she has a young child.
At a job interview, Sofia mentions that she spends a lot of time looking after her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. The interviewer ends the interview saying, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t afford to employ people with heavy carer responsibilities’.
Are there any exceptions?
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some general exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances.
Employees (including a contractor or a partner in a firm) who feel that they have been discriminated against on the basis of their carer status can make a complaint to the Commission.
Employers may be vicariously liable for their employees’ acts of discrimination or sexual harassment. Employers can also be directly liable. Find out more about who is liable for discrimination and harassment.
Employers also have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.
Complaints of discrimination made to the Commission are resolved through a process called conciliation. Find out more about our process for resolving complaints.