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Same-sex marriage heralds changes for business

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
08 January 2018 1 minute readShare
Same-sex marriage, rainbow flag

The first same-sex weddings are set to take place from today (9 January), bringing a raft of changes for businesses and employers that may not be completely obvious.

Of course the wedding industry and associated businesses are gearing up for a bumper season in 2018 as same-sex couples race to make their unions official.

Yet businesses of a diverse range of size and industry are likely to face change as a result.

For instance, internal employee records may need to be updated to change the marital status from partnered to married for anyone already married overseas, and potentially update their emergency contact information accordingly.

Then there will be a raft of industry-specific changes:

Marriage celebrants will have their official scripts changed to reflect the legislative change, with marriage now defined as “the union of two people” rather than as “the union of one man and one woman”.

Health and medical professionals will now have to recognise same-sex spouses as family – amending the previous restrictions around disclosure and patient access to non-family members, even spouses who had been married overseas but who were not recognised under Australian law.

There will also be changes relating to wills, finances, property and superannuation for operators within those sectors, bringing married same-sex couples in line with married opposite-sex couples.

One little known implication was flagged by My Business’ sister publication SMSF Adviser, which revealed complexities pertaining to binding death benefit nominations, commonly used by de facto couples.

Arguably the biggest change for employers, however, is not a change at all: instead, it is a need to become reacquainted with anti-discrimination obligations.

While discrimination based on sexual orientation has long been, and remains, illegal under state and federal anti-discrimination laws, the new provision of services to same-sex couples getting married presents the potential for workers to land themselves and their employer in hot water.

As such, customer-facing employees may benefit from undertaking refresher training on discrimination law, particularly for any industries associated with weddings, to ensure pre-existing obligations continue to be met as the first same-sex marriages get underway.

Same-sex marriage heralds changes for business
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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