New grounds of discrimination were added to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SD Act) making discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status unlawful from 1 August 2013. The amendment has extended the definition of "marital status" to "marital or relationship status" to provide protection for same-sex de facto couples.
Previously, measures against discrimination based on sexual orientation were available only in relation to adverse action claims under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The current amendments make discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status unlawful in the same areas currently included in the SD Act such as employment, education and the provision of goods and services. Criminal penalties will continue to apply to offences against the SD Act.
Employers should update their policies to reflect the new areas of protection, which should be incorporated into training and education on anti-discrimination to ensure they do not discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or relationship status (including same-sex relationships).