Cit­i­zen­ship off lim­its for em­ploy­ers

Benalla Ensign - - News - By Si­mon Rup­pert

Cit­i­zen­ship de­bates have no place at work, un­less you hap­pen to be stand­ing for fed­eral of­fice.

While de­bate around dual na­tion­als in Par­lia­ment has dom­i­nated head­lines in re­cent weeks, if an em­ployer dis­cusses cit­i­zen­ship dur­ing an in­ter­view they are prob­a­bly break­ing the law.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce and Regional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Fiona Nash are the lat­est high-pro­file politi­cians to find them­selves in breach of sec­tion 44 of the con­sti­tu­tion for hold­ing dual na­tion­al­ity.

How­ever, these cases are unique to their oc­cu­pa­tion and an ex­cep­tion to al­most ev­ery other oc­cu­pa­tion in Aus­tralia.

Em­ploy­ment lawyer Henry Pill said that ques­tions about a per­son’s cit­i­zen­ship should never be asked by em­ploy­ers.

‘‘State and fed­eral anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws pro­hibit ques­tions about a per­sons race or na­tion­al­ity in the work­place,’’ Mr Pill said.

‘‘While politi­cians need to be asked about their cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus dur­ing pre­s­e­lec­tion, that sort of ques­tion­ing is off lim­its in an or­di­nary job in­ter­view.

‘‘Ques­tions dur­ing in­ter­views need to com­ply with anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws and that in­cludes avoid­ing un­nec­es­sary ques­tions about na­tion­al­ity, race, re­li­gion, sex­u­al­ity and age.’’

A po­ten­tial em­ployer can ask if a can­di­date has the right to work in Aus­tralia or, if the job re­quires over­seas travel, if a per­son has the right to work in that coun­try.

Em­ploy­ers need to avoid ask­ing where a per­son was born, what coun­try they are from, where their par­ents are from and if they can state all coun­tries they have cit­i­zen­ship.

Mr Pill said deal­ing with dis­crim­i­na­tory in­ter­view ques­tion could be dif­fi­cult for work­ers and job­seek­ers.

‘‘One op­tion is to po­litely de­cline to an­swer, but it’s a good idea to make a note of the ques­tion and keep it in mind in case you need to make a claim for dis­crim­i­na­tion,’’ Mr Pill said.

‘‘Com­plaints can be made to the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and each state also has an anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion com­mis­sion or or­gan­i­sa­tion that can as­sist, and you can also seek le­gal ad­vice.

‘‘How­ever, the onus should re­ally be on em­ploy­ers to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion and en­sure they don’t ask un­law­ful ques­tions in the first place.’’

The Vic­to­rian Equal Op­por­tu­nity and Hu­man Right Com­mis­sion can be con­tacted on 1300 292 153 or at www.hu­man­rightscom­mis­sion.vic.gov.au

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