Age and family responsibilities would no longer be a barrier to employment opportunities, Premier Carmen Lawrence said today.
Dr Lawrence said amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act which take effect from the end of the week make it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of age or family responsibilities.
"This represents a major step toward achieving a co-operative, tolerant and productive community which allows all Western Australians to fulfil their potential," she said.
"The amendments to the legislation have not been made to place additional restrictions on people but to ensure that individuals get a fair go."
The Premier said the new legislation would give people an avenue for redress if age was used arbitrarily as a criterion to assess ability or capacity in certain areas of public life.
"The legislation requires employers to assess job applicants on their skills and experience, and not simply by using age to determine the best person for the job," the Premier said.
There were a number of common sense exceptions where discrimination on the basis of age was lawful, such as obtaining a driver's licence, purchasing alcohol or applying for a Seniors' Card.
Dr Lawrence said she was particularly pleased that Western Australia had taken the lead in the area of family responsibility.
"Western Australia becomes the first State to make this form of discrimination unlawful," she said.
"The approach being adopted is one of shared responsibilities between Government, employees, unions and employers to provide supportive measures to allow workers with family responsibilities to carry out their dual responsibilities more effectively and productively.
"It will be beneficial to both employers and employees if there is more sensitivity about family responsibilities outside the workplace."
Dr Lawrence said studies had shown that organisations which promote a `family friendly' workplace often had low absenteeism, lower staff turn-over, higher morale and greater productivity.
"The amendments which come into force on January 8 reflect community standards and contribute to a recognition of individuals and groups on the basis of skills, ability and capacity," the Premier said.