Victoria Legal Aid

COVID-19 and discrimination at work

Learn what to do if you experience discrimination at work because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

If you experience discrimination at work because of COVID-19 coronavirus:

  • it might or might not be against the law, depending on your situation
  • you should get legal advice quickly, as you may have to do something within 21 days
  • you can get advice from Victoria Legal Aid. See Other support.

If you have been treated badly at work or lost your job for a different reason, get legal advice. Victoria Legal Aid cannot give you advice about unfair dismissal or unpaid entitlements, but other organisations can help. See Other support.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination means that you are treated badly because of something about yourself that is protected by the law, like having a disability.

Discrimination includes being treated unfairly because:

  • you have a temporary disease or illness, like coronavirus
  • you are caring for someone with coronavirus
  • you previously had coronavirus
  • your employer thinks you had coronavirus, have it now or will have it in the future
  • you have a disability that makes coronavirus a bigger risk for you.

There are laws to protect people from discrimination because of a disability, because they have parental or carer responsibilities, or because of their race.

Discrimination laws are unlikely to protect you if you refuse to be vaccinated because of your beliefs about vaccines. For more information, see COVID-19, mandatory vaccines and work.

What does my employer have to do?

Your employer must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ (changes) to accommodate your disability or your responsibilities as a parent or a carer. This might include letting you work from home if you have to self-isolate or care for someone.

What is ‘reasonable’ depends on how much inconvenience or hardship the changes will cause your employer. This could include the cost of making the changes, how it would affect the business and what impact it has on other workers. Your employer must make sure the workplace is safe for all workers and follow government advice.

If you cannot do your job because of coronavirus, it might be legal for your employer to:

  • ask you to work from home
  • make you redundant
  • ask you to take paid or unpaid leave
  • dismiss you.

Whether it is legal or not will depend on the circumstances. It is important that you get advice about your options. See Other support.

What can I do?

If you experience discrimination at work, you may be able to make a discrimination complaint. You can ask for your job back in some circumstances or ask for money as compensation. You can get legal advice about discrimination from Victoria Legal Aid.

If you have lost your job but you do not think it is discrimination, you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal. If you have not been paid your entitlements, you may be able to make a claim for underpayment. Victoria Legal Aid cannot assist with these issues, but other organisations can.

Get legal advice quickly. You may have to do something within 21 days.

See Other support.

Does it matter if I don’t work full-time?

Not for a discrimination claim. Discrimination laws protect all workers, including people who work:

  • full-time
  • part time
  • casual
  • on probation
  • as apprentices and trainees
  • for fixed periods of time or tasks.

More information

Learn where to get help with the COVID-19 coronavirus

Read about Discrimination

Read about Employment

Read about how to make a complaint about discrimination

Visit the JobWatch COVID-19 employment rights Q&AExternal Link

Where to get other support

See Other support.

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Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at

Reviewed 09 May 2022

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