Equal opportunities for job seekers

The Victorian Government will reinstate protections against discrimination for Victorian workers seeking employment at religious bodies or schools.

The Victorian Government will introduce the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 in Parliament this week to reinstate the inherent requirements test under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

The test was scrapped by the former Coalition Government in 2011, which left many Victorians vulnerable to discrimination when seeking employment with religious bodies or schools, particularly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inherent requirements test will limit the ability of a religious body or school to rely on a religious defence to discriminate in the area of employment because of a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or differing religious beliefs.

The defence will be limited to circumstances where religious beliefs are an inherent requirement of a job, and an employee or job applicant does not meet the requirement because of a specific personal attribute.

The test will not force religious bodies or schools to employ people with attributes that conflict with its religious beliefs and principles. However, it will require them to demonstrate a necessary connection between their religious beliefs and the requirements of a specific role.

The new legislation delivers on the Labor Government’s election commitment to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to restore a greater balance between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to religious freedom.

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