The parliamentary shenanigans over nationality do not give employers an open licence to question employees and candidates about their heritage, an employment lawyer warns.
According to Henry Pill of Slater and Gordon, questions about a person’s citizenship are only permissible in the context of Parliament. Doing so in business can be a breach of anti-discrimination provisions, he warns.
“State and federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit questions about a person’s race or nationality in the workplace,” says Mr Pill.
“While politicians need to be asked about their citizenship status during pre-selection, 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.”
The only allowable questions an employer can ask are whether someone has the right to work in Australia, and whether someone has the right to work in another country if needed.
“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,” says Mr Pill, adding that complaints could be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission.