Legislation for Students

Information About Legislation Relevant to Students

As a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), ADAS is absolutely committed to complying with Commonwealth and State legislation and regulatory requirements relevant to its operations. ADAS has developed policies and procedures to assist in maintaining compliance with the relevant legislation and regulations, and is required under the terms of its registration as an RTO to ensure that information is given to clients about current legislation that significantly effects their participation in Vocational Education and Training (VET), and in particular in regard to:

  • Occupational health and safety (OHS)
  • Workplace harassment, victimisation and bullying
  • Anti-discrimination, including equal opportunity and racial vilification
  • Disability discrimination
  • Vocational education and training

Further general information on state and territory legislation is available at: www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/

Further information on Commonwealth legislation is available at: www.comlaw.gov.au

A good source of legal information and help with legal issues go to: www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Occupational Health & Safety (OHS)

General

Occupational heath and safety laws apply to the workplace at all times including during periods of training. It is important to ensure that apprentices, trainees and other new staff understand principles of safety and health as they relate to the workplace.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation describes the general requirements necessary to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, and is designed to reduce the number of injuries in the workplace by imposing responsibilities on individuals and corporations.

Employers, self-employed people, those in control of work premises, machinery and substances, designers, manufacturers, suppliers and workers all have obligations with regard to workplace health, safety and welfare.

Although it differs in detail from state to state, in general Australian OHS legislation is aimed essentially achieving the same ends.

In general, employers must:

  • Provide and maintain a safe working environment and safe systems of work
  • Provide information to employees in relation to health, safety and welfare in the workplace.

Employees also have responsibilities under the health and safety laws. Typically, employees are required to:

  • Follow instructions and rules in the workplace – for example, to comply with instructions designed to ensure that work is carried out safely
  • Work and behave in ways which are safe and do not endanger the health and safety of anyone in the workplace.

As an employee, if you don’t do these things, you can be disciplined by your employer under your industrial award or enterprise agreement, or you could be prosecuted under the health and safety law in your State or Territory.

As well as employers and employees, other people who have workplace health and safety responsibilities include people who sell materials and equipment, or who provide services to a workplace (e.g. maintenance, repairs, cleaning, building and construction). They must ensure that the goods they design, make, supply, install, maintain or repair will not cause injury or damage the health of people in workplaces.

OHS Regulation

OHS is regulated by Commonwealth and state and territory government bodies. General information on their roles and responsibilities can be found at the following relevant website:

Workplace Harassment, Victimisation and Bullying

Workplace harassment, victimisation and bullying are abuses or misuses of power characterised by aggressive behaviour or actions that intimidate, humiliate and/or undermine a person or group. Power can be due to organisational level, or occupation of any position having standing within the organisation, organisational knowledge or experience, gender, age or physical power. Workplace harassment, victimisation and bullying are unacceptable and are not to be tolerated under any circumstances. They may cause emotional damage, reduce morale and subsequently the loss of trained and talented employees.

Federal and state anti-discrimination/equal opportunity laws protect you from harassment and victimisation including: age; breastfeeding or pregnancy status; career status; disability or impairment; gender identity; being a union member (or not); sexual activity; marital status; sexual orientation; physical features (not including ‘accessories ’ like tattoos or piercing); political activity or belief; race; religious belief; gender.

Harassment is behaviour that another person does not want and does not return and or offends, embarrasses or scares that person.

Harassment is against the law if it is about a person’s disability, sex, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, any element covered in EEO legislation, or is of a sexual nature.

Harassment refers to behaviour towards an individual or group of individuals and could be defined as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.

Often harassment in the workplace involves a misuse of power. This might be a person in authority who intentionally undermines, humiliates or destroys the confidence and self-esteem of an individual or group. Harassment may occur between people of any gender. It can also occur between co-workers, one or more of whom may deliberately demean, offend or intimidate a colleague, between students and between students and staff.

Under federal and state legislation unlawful harassment occurs when someone is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex; disability; sexual preference; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation. It can also happen if someone is working in a ‘hostile’ – or intimidating – environment.

Sexual Harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome, unsolicited and unreciprocated. The gender and sexual orientation of the perpetrator or victim is irrelevant.

Examples of Harassing Behaviour

Harassment may be subtle or overt and includes, but is not limited to, the following forms of behaviour:

  • Abusive and offensive language or shouting
  • Constant unreasonable criticism about work or academic performance, often about petty or insignificant matters
  • Deliberate exclusion, isolation or alienation of a staff member or student
  • Allocation of humiliating or demeaning tasks, or sabotaging a person’s work
  • Setting of impossible deadlines with unrealistic expectations of work
  • Spreading gossip or false and malicious rumours with an intent to cause harm to a person
  • Sarcasm or ridicule
  • Threatening gestures or actual violence
  • Inappropriate comments about personal appearance
  • Electronic harassment such as through email, SMS
  • Hazing (such as harmful or humiliating initiation rituals).

Victimisation occurs when a person does an act, or threatens to do an act against a person because:

  • They have made a complaint or are associated with a person who has made a complaint under this policy, or
  • They have had a complaint made against them or are associated with a person who has had a complaint made against them under this policy.

Bullying is a form of harassment. Bullying behaviour is based on the misuse of power in human relationships. From an occupational health and safety perspective, workplace bullying is defined as: repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person or group of persons at a workplace, which creates a risk to health and safety.

“Unreasonable behaviour” is behaviour that is offensive, humiliating, intimidating, degrading or threatening. It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Initiation pranks
  • Excluding or isolating employees
  • Giving a person the majority of an unpleasant or meaningless task
  • Humiliation through sarcasm, or belittling someone’s opinions
  • Constant criticism or insults
  • Spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  • Setting impossible deadlines
  • Deliberately changing work rosters to inconvenience certain employees
  • Deliberately withholding information or resources, that are vital for effective work performance
  • Manipulating the impression of others to split the work group into taking sides
  • Displaying written or pictorial material which may degrade or offend certain employees

Examples of bullying include yelling, abusive language, continually criticising someone, isolating or ignoring someone, imposing unnecessary pressure with overwork or impossible deadlines and sabotaging someone’s work, or their ability to do their job by withholding vital information and resources.

Anti-Discrimination, including Equal Opportunity and Racial Vilification

In Australia, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment on the grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. Under federal and state legislation unlawful discrimination occurs when someone, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex, pregnancy or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference; membership of a trade union activity; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation.

Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). In addition, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a person on the grounds of their sex, race, marital status, homosexuality, disability or age.

Under the NSW Act, employers must ensure that all staff are treated without discrimination. For example, a person’s colour or religion should not influence how they are treated in either the workplace or any sphere of public life. This means employers are responsible for ensuring that workplace rules, policies and procedures do not disadvantage any one group. (For more information, contact the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW.)

Anti-Discrimination

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 addresses discrimination issues related to:

  • Gender
  • Race, colour, nationality, ethnic or ethno-religious background
  • Physical or intellectual or psychiatric disability, or any organism capable of causing disease
  • Homosexuality (male or female, actual or presumed)

Racial discrimination is the act of treating a person unfairly because of their race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnicity or ethno-religious background. Racial harassment, a form of discrimination, is any form of unwelcome, unsolicited and unreciprocated behaviour that denigrates someone, offends them, or humiliates them on the grounds of their race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnicity or ethno-religious background. Racial vilification is generally a public act that could incite others to hate, have contempt for, or severely ridicule a person or group of people because of their race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnicity or ethno-religious background. All races, ethnic and ethno-religious groups are covered by the laws on racial discrimination, harassment and vilification.

All types of racial discrimination, harassment and vilification are unlawful. ADAS is required by these laws to ensure the absence of racial discrimination, harassment and vilification. ADAS has a responsibility to ensure that employees and students are made aware of what constitutes acceptable behaviour; to deal with complaints sensitively and quickly, and to inform staff and students of their options for seeking redress.

Students or staff who believe they have been subjected to racial discrimination, harassment or vilification have the option to seek assistance from the relevant Anti-Discrimination Board and/or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner who will advise them of their rights under the legislation.

Federal, State and Territory laws

The laws protecting individuals from being treated unfairly because of their race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnicity or ethno-religious background are the Federal Racial Discrimination Act (1975), and the Racial Hatred Act (1995). Each state and territory has specific legislation cover in this area (see below for further information).

Disabilty Discrimination

Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.

A person with a disability has a right to the same employment opportunities as a person without a disability.

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. It encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people. The Act makes it against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone on the grounds of disability.

Employers must offer equal employment opportunities to everyone. This means that if a person with a disability can do the essential activities or “inherent requirements” of a job, he or she should have just as much chance to do that job as anyone else.

Employers should make employment decisions based on a person’s ability to perform the essential activities of the job. They should not make assumptions about what a person can or cannot do because of a disability.

For example, an essential activity or “inherent requirement” for a telephonists job is the ability to communicate by telephone. But it is not an “inherent requirement’ to hold the phone in the hand.

Employers should choose the best person for the job, whether that person has a disability or not. People with a disability are protected against discrimination in:

  • Recruitment processes such as advertising, interviewing, and other selection processes
  • Decisions on who will get the job
  • Terms and conditions of employment such as pay rates, work hours and leave
  • Promotion, transfer, training or other benefits associated with employment, or
  • Dismissal or any other detriment, such as demotion or retrenchment.

Further information and guidance can be found in A brief guide to the Disability Discrimination Act at www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/dda_guide/dda_guide.htm

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

VET Legislation

Vocational Education and Training (VET), in Australia is regulated by: