All organisations are required to operate without discrimination or other unlawful conduct.

It is essential that organisations operating in Tasmania are aware of and understand their responsibilities under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) (the Act), which is broader than Federal anti-discrimination law and some other state/territory discrimination laws.

Obligations 'Reasonable Steps'

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 ('the Act') places obligations on all Tasmanian organisations/employers to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure that all its members, officers, employees, and agents are protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Any organisation that does not comply with these legal responsibilities is liable for any contravention of this Act.

Section 104 of the Act says, organisations must:

  • ensure that its members, officers, employees and agents are made aware of the discrimination and prohibited conduct to which this Act relates;
  • ensure that the terms of any order made by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal relating to that organisation are brought to the notice of its members, officers, employees and agents whose duties mean that they may engage in conduct of the kind to which the order relates;
  • ensure that no member, officer, employee or agent of the organisation engages in, repeats or continues such conduct; and
  • take reasonable steps to ensure that no member, officer, employee or agent of the agency/organisation engages in discrimination or prohibited conduct.

There are a number of reasonable steps an organisation can take to ensure their workplace is free from harassment, discrimination they are:

  • adopting an Anti-Discrimination policy and/or an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy;
  • formulating internal grievance handling procedures;
  • widely publicising policies and procedures to all employees;
  • selecting, appointing and training Contact Officers with support networks;
  • providing anti-discrimination training and/or information to all employees including Managers and Supervisors;
  • ensuring complaints are investigated promptly and confidentially according to set policies and procedures;
  • develop a strategy for dealing with anonymous complaints.

It is important that employers/organisations focus on prevention and appropriate responses when dealing with discrimination and harassment. ‘Reasonable steps’ may vary in accordance with the size of a business. A large corporation’s reasonable expectations are likely to differ to the ‘reasonable steps’ required of a small business.

When responding to a complaint an employer/organisation who has developed good workplace practices should be able to show that it took ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent discrimination and harassment and responded appropriately once it was made aware of the issue.

Grievance procedures

Grievance procedures

Grievance procedures should cover all possible grievances that may occur in the workplace e.g. management decisions, promotions, training, transfers, rosters, workplace safety, work environment, harassment and discrimination.

The grievance handling procedure should provide a list of approachable staff that people can contact if they have a grievance in the workplace. These may include contact points such as Supervisors, Contact Officers, Diversity or EEO Officers.

Approximately 70% of Australian workplaces have formal grievance procedures. There are plenty of models available and many organisations are happy to share the procedures they have developed.

Most important elements

The most important elements of a grievance procedure are:

  • Timely responses – complaints should be dealt with as soon as they are received;
  • Sensitivity – ensure both parties feelings are respected throughout the process;
  • Fairness and impartiality – both parties must be afforded substantive and procedural fairness in any investigation. Both sides of the story must be heard. An external investigator can be contracted to undertake the investigation to ensure a fair process;
  • Confidentiality – only parties directly involved in the investigation of the complaint or those involved in making decisions about outcomes should have access to information about the grievance;
  • Allow for appeals – a review by someone who did not handle the investigation should be provided; and
  • Victimisation - Ensure all parties are aware that victimisation against anyone involved in the complaint will not be tolerated and is against the law.

An organisation that has grievance procedures in place has a better chance of a happier, healthier workforce than an organisation that doesn't.


Employers should make an effort to:

  • circulate policies and related information widely and in accessible formats and appropriate languages;
  • incorporate grievance procedures which are accessible to all staff;
  • develop educational programs (training, leaflets, posters, flyers etc) for all staff about their rights and responsibilities;
  • provide information and support for potential complainants to effect early resolution and positive outcomes; and
  • review policies and procedures on a regular basis.

External grievance options

If internal grievance procedures fail or the complainant is not happy with the outcome they should be advised of their external grievance options.

These may include: