AUSTRALIAN employers say the Morrison government’s proposed religious freedom laws would undermine their ability to protect workers from harassment and to maintain standards of conduct.
The Australian Industry Group says it supports freedom of religion but that the draft religious freedom bills could expose employees to discrimination and give others a platform from which to argue they should not have to comply with their employer’s policies.
Ai Group, which represents employers across industries including manufacturing, engineering, construction, telecommunications and defence, used its submission on the bill to propose a raft of changes.
Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said on Tuesday the proposed legislation has the potential to increase conflict and disharmony in Australian workplaces.
“The potential for the provisions of the bill to be used to advance and protect extremist opinions or behaviour, of whatever kind, in the name of an undefined religious belief should not be underestimated,” Mr Willox said.
“The bill limits the ability for employers to regulate, respond to and manage instances of inappropriate conduct by an employee that may cause conflict with, or detriment to, co-workers.”
Mr Willox said, in instances where an employer’s diversity and inclusion policy conflicts with some people’s religious beliefs, employees could argue the law permits non-compliance.
“The provisions of the bill, as drafted, would impede the ability of employers to maintain appropriate standards of conduct and to protect their employees from harassment and discrimination,” Mr Willox said.
He said the proposed bills would add to an “existing complex web” of federal and state anti-discrimination laws under which businesses already operate.