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Family responsibilities

This occurs where a person is treated unfavourably because they have a responsibility to provide care for a family member, such as a dependent child or a frail elderly parent. This discrimination also occurs when people are treated unfavourably because of assumptions made about people with caring responsibilities. For example, it is discrimination if an employer decides not to hire a job applicant because that person is the sole carer for a disabled spouse and the employer assumes that the applicant will be frequently late for work.


Areas of discrimination on basis of family responsibilities under SA law

In South Australia it is illegal under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) to discriminate on the ground of family responsibilities. This means the responsibility to provide care for a dependent child or for an immediate family member who is in need of care and support.

Immediate family members include spouses and domestic partners, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and the corresponding relatives of one’s spouse or partner. They also include a person to whom an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person owes a responsibility of care or support under applicable kinship rules.

It is unlawful to discriminate based on a person’s family responsibilities in:

  • education
  • work
  • accommodation
  • sale of land
  • conferral of qualifications
  • goods and services
  • membership of associations.


  • employment not connected with an employer's business
  • charities
  • special measures intended to achieve equality
  • associations established for persons with caring responsibilities or particular caring responsibilities
  • accommodation in one's own household
  • accommodation provided by not for profit organisations for the benefit of persons with particular caring responsibilities

Areas of discrimination on basis of family responsibilities under Commonwealth law

Discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities is also prohibited under Commonwealth law.

Under the Sex Discrimination Act, the definition of family responsibilities is the same as in South Australian law, but discrimination on this ground is only unlawful if it occurs in relation to the person's work or selection for work.

Discrimination at work on the basis of family responsibilities is also prohibited under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and, in that case, any type of adverse action at work is covered.

Making a complaint

Complaints can be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Equal Opportunity Commission. There is no cost to lodge a complaint in either the Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia or the Australian Human Rights Commission. For forms and guides on making a complaint see the websites of the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

For complaints relating to discrimination in employment, claims can may made to the Fair Work Commission, see the Employment chapter of the handbook on protected workplace rights: General Protections.

Time limits:

The Australian Human Rights Commissioner may decide not to take any action for complaints on acts committed more than 6 months previously.

The Equal Opportunity Commission normally requires a complaint to be made within 12 months of the event being complained of but can grant extensions of time.

General Protections claims relating to dismissal have a 21 day time limit (from the date of notice of dismissal) in the Fair Work Commission.

Family responsibilities  :  Last Revised: Wed Nov 8th 2017
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.