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A clearly defined anti-discrimination policy is essential to protect your employees and company reputation as well as complying with human rights legislation. Complying with such an important document from scratch can be challenging, especially if you have a new business and are hiring your first employees.
We have put together a guide to what you need to know and where you can find templates online to help you.
What's in this guide?
- What is a discrimination policy?
- When should I use a discrimination policy?
- Discrimination policy vs bullying and harassment policy
- What does a discrimination policy include and not include?
- How effective is a discrimination policy?
- Do I need a lawyer to write a discrimination policy?
- Get access to customisable Discrimination Policy templates online
- How do I write a discrimination policy?
- Where to get free legal documents and templates like a discrimination policy
What is a discrimination policy?
A discrimination policy is a human resources policy that sets out how your company defines and protects its employees and customers from offensive behaviour, including comments or adverse actions regarding their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or religion.
Australian law, including the Human Rights Commission Act 1986, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, puts employers under legal obligation to create a work environment that is free from discrimination and hostility. There are also state laws that you should be aware of covering the work environment.
Adverse actions can include discriminating between employees, dismissing an employee or negatively changing their position. The law protects all employees, including full time, part time, and casual employees, apprentices, and trainees.
Download this template at Lawpath
When should I use a discrimination policy?
It's good practice to provide the discrimination policy document to new employees and include it in the company's employee handbook for existing employees to reference as needed. Some companies have their employees sign a copy of the policy to confirm they have read it and understand the details. This can provide protection in the event there is a discrimination lawsuit filed against the company or its employees.
Discrimination policy vs bullying and harassment policy
Bullying and harassment broadly covers offensive, intimidating, or malicious behaviour or abuse of authority against an individual or group, while discrimination is specifically based on the victim's protected characteristics such as ethnicity and gender. A discrimination policy can form part of a wider bullying and harassment policy.
What does a discrimination policy include and not include?
A discrimination policy defines different types of discrimination and explains how the company will deal with incidents, including the complaints procedure and disciplinary process. It should include examples to help employees understand the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour so that there is no ambiguity.
What is included in a discrimination policy?
The details of a discrimination policy include:
- Definitions of discriminatory behaviour
- Explanations of behaviour the company does not tolerate
- Guidance on how to file a complaint
- Assurance that employees will not be punished for reporting discrimination
- Responsibilities of managers who receive complaints
- Procedures for investigating complaints
- Disciplinary action the company will take
- Support the company provides for victims, such as counselling
What is not included in a discrimination policy?
In writing a discrimination policy you should avoid including overly complicated policies, outdated language regarding identity, restrictive policies that do not allow manager discretion, or vague wording that would mislead the reader.
How effective is a discrimination policy?
A discrimination policy clearly defines a company's position so that employees and managers know where they stand. A detailed complaints and disciplinary procedure helps a business deal with incidents of discrimination with minimal disruption. It can also prevent claims of unfair or inconsistent treatment. In the event an employee or customer files legal action, a written document provides evidence of the framework the company has put in place.
Do I need a lawyer to write a discrimination policy?
You do not need a lawyer to write a discrimination policy. However, a discrimination or employment lawyer can review your documents to make sure that the policy includes all the details you need to cover and would adequately protect the company in a legal case.
Get access to customisable Discrimination Policy templates online
Does your company belong in this list?
How do I write a discrimination policy?
Given its importance, writing a discrimination policy might seem intimidating but there are templates available online to help you with the structure and wording. Before starting to put together the document, check the relevant legislation for your state to ensure you include everything the law requires.
Make sure the wording of your policy is clear and unambiguous, providing specific real-world examples to show the reader what is unacceptable behaviour and what the consequences are.
Where to get free legal documents and templates like a discrimination policy
- Lawpath. Lawpath is an online legal resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Users can browse samples on its website for free but must sign up to access and customise documents.
- LegalVision. LegalVision offers users unlimited use of legal document templates, including a bullying, discrimination and harassment policy, for a monthly membership fee of $199.
- Wonder.Legal. Wonder.Legal offers more than 140 templates, all of which can be purchased for a one-time fee. You can full-out and download a customised discrimination policy document for $29.99.
- Workable. Workable provides recruitment software and offers more than 1,000 human resource templates, including an anti-discrimination policy you can download for free.
- Australian Human Rights Commission. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides a free template that you can download and customise.
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