What is discrimination of the poor in the workplace?
In Australia, the legal definition of direct discrimination is being subjected to ‘less favourable treatment as a result of possession of a protected attribute’. The ‘protected attributes’ include race, age, sex, sexuality and others, but importantly, does NOT include poverty or socio-economic status.
We at A Whole New Approach firmly believe that this is a serious cause for reform in Australian law, as once again, those who are under-privileged socioeconomically, are being discriminated. Time and time again we are finding Employers are mistreating employees, through bullying, harassment, adverse actions, unfair and unlawful dismissals, on the basis that poor employees, or implied poorer employees do not have the means, resources, education, and family support to challenge the Employer though the Fair work Commission and the various equal opportunity and human rights commissions. This is demonstrated time and time again where specific groups are targeted, young employees from broken homes, females who are victims off domestic violence, older divorced males, etc.
What we as a company understand, but most fail to realise (particularly those that have only known privilege), and what the legislative council needs to consider, is how interconnected lower socio-economic status and poverty is linked to the already instituted protected attributes under Australian law.
Poverty & Exclusion
Multiple studies have shown how highly correlated growing up poor is with other disadvantages, such as its effect on educational achievement, physical and mental health, healthy social interactions and behaviour, family stability – the list goes on. All these consequences that are significantly linked to poverty, or lower socio-economic status, each potentially have a rolling effect to encouraging social exclusion of those that are less fortunate. This follows into roles in the workplace.
A look into mental health service use in Australia very clearly shows the significant disparity between those of low socio-economic backgrounds and those from higher. The former show higher reports of complex mental disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression and various other conduct disorders and as a result, more commonly reach out to these services provided. Other factors frequently related to poverty such as absent parents, less supportive schools and communities, all have shown causative relations to poorer mental health.
As previously mentioned, mental health is not the only thing detrimentally affected by poverty. Too many studies have pointed out that being of lower socio-economic class has significant associations with poorer physical health status, even mortality. The stress of paying ordinary household bills may already be a heavy burden on those that have less, then there is the added burden of deteriorating health and medical bills, which then in turn attracts even more illnesses. Example is low socio-economic groups, are forced to retire earlier from work due to poor health, and clearly follows less superannuation to support themselves.
Socio-economic associations even have a negative impact on academic attainment throughout one’s life. Alarming observations include seeing children of impressively high intelligence but lower wealth at the age of 3, being completely taken over by those of significantly lower intelligence but higher wealth, by the age of 5. Socio-economic class continues to be a dragging weight to academic achievement, whereas wealth affords more supportive and well-resources institutions to boost academic success. Quality education has many different implications; such as better-paying jobs which would help end the cycle of poverty, less stressors in life which would lead to better overall health… The benefits continue while those with lower education as a result of poverty, continue to lag farther and farther behind.
This article only briefly attempts to paint the picture of the vicious cycle of being poor, and how important it is to realise these realities of how it impacts workplace behaviour. Even if being poor – and its very real consequences – are effectively ignored by the law, A Whole New Approach will do our best to have your pain and suffering recognised in the eyes of the law and by the Employer and persons that has caused you this detriment. We recognise your pain, will fight for your rights and do our utmost to be your best advocate.