QIRC grants exemption for all-female staff amid discrimination concerns
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) has recently addressed an employer’s request to exclusively hire female staff, despite potential concerns about violating anti-discrimination laws.
Children by Choice, an independent non-profit organization with a primary mission of providing high-quality and impartial counseling, evidence-based information, material aid, and referrals for women and pregnant individuals facing pregnancy-related difficulties, including abortion, adoption, and parenting. Their services encompass education, community engagement, research, advocacy, and project work. They receive funding from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General under Sexual Violence and Women’s Support Services investment guidelines. Currently, twelve women are employed by the organization.
The employer has argued that, due to the nature of their work and their clientele, they require an exemption from the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1991. This exemption would allow them to exclusively advertise, recruit, and employ women for all positions, with the aim of creating a safe and comfortable environment for women and pregnant individuals.
“They believe that the exemption will enable them to provide services in a way that ensures the safety and comfort of women and pregnant individuals.”
The organization has emphasized that 43% of its clients have reported experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or reproductive coercion, primarily perpetrated by men. Many of these clients feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the presence of men, and the exemption is deemed necessary to fulfill the organization’s objectives and funding requirements. They believe that the exemption will enable them to provide services in a way that ensures the safety and comfort of women and pregnant individuals.
In contrast, the Human Rights Commissioner has opposed the employer’s exemption request, arguing that it does not demonstrate a legitimate and proportionate limitation on the right to equality and protection against discrimination.
The QIRC, in its decision, has determined that granting the exemption is necessary, reasonable, and appropriate. It has found that any limitation on human rights resulting from this exemption is proportionate, given its specific purpose. The Commission emphasized the significance of human rights and noted that the limitation applies only to prospective male employees of Children by Choice, an organization with a small workforce of approximately 12 individuals at any given time.
The QIRC granted the exemption, specifying that it only applies to actions or omissions related to advertising, recruitment, and employment practices. Furthermore, the exemption is valid for a period of five years.