Reasonable Accommodation of Employees' Parenting and Carer Responsibilities: A Human Rights Perspective
Positive duties, including a duty to accommodate, are rare in Australian anti-discrimination law. In 2008, the Victorian Parliament enacted a duty on employers to accommodate employees’ parenting or carer responsibilities. This unique duty requires employers to seriously consider how they can accommodate such responsibilities when they determine work arrangements. So far, however, these provisions have been interpreted as requiring all employees to be treated the same, regardless of their circumstances. This article argues that interpretation of the provisions should be guided by the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic). A human rights-focused interpretation would give more weight to the interests of employees with parenting or carer responsibilities and would support the legislative purpose of promoting their full and equal participation in the workforce. This would also assist the cultural change needed to challenge gendered stereotypes regarding the respective roles of men and women in relation to employment and carer work.