Big Businesses Concerned About Religious Freedom Laws

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Big businesses are warning proposed religious freedom laws will give employees too much leeway to breach company policies on social media.

The Australian Industry Group says firms need to be able to maintain workplace standards and impose reasonable rules on staff.

“From an employer’s perspective elements of the exposure draft would potentially have significant impacts,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox told The Australian Financial Review on Thursday.

“These impacts need to be very carefully evaluated before any legislation is introduced into parliament.”

Under the draft laws, businesses with annual revenues of $50 million or more will face stricter controls on firing workers for expressing religious views in breach of their employment agreements.

Large companies will have to prove they would suffer “unjustifiable financial hardship” if they kept the worker.

The legislative change is designed to placate concerns about the recent sacking of Australian rugby player Israel Folau for sharing controversial religious views on social media.

The Australian Christian Lobby says it’s disappointed with the government’s exposure draft on religious freedom.

The ACL is concerned too many stakeholder opinions have caused the lines to be blurred.

Managing Director Martyn Iles has told our newsroom, there were many contradictory statements in the document.

“If you look at that Folau clause, for example, it says an employer can’t terminate someone for a statement of belief, and you think, ‘Excellent’. You keep reading the details and it says ‘unless’. There’s always an ‘unless’ in every case,” says Mr Iles.

Community consultations will take place over the coming months, before the legislation is introduced.

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