29.1 The right to work has been recognised as a fundamental human right by many countries within the international community, including Australia.[1] A person’s ability to work is important to his or her financial security, self-esteem and community involvement. On a broader level, a person’s ability to work allows him or her to contribute financially to the community through the income tax system, and to avoid dependence on state welfare. The possibility that a person might be excluded from employment as a result of his or her genetic status is therefore a serious concern.

29.2 Australian employers may currently request genetic information from a job applicant or employee, subject to relevant privacy and anti-discrimination legislation. Employers may seek access to such information where, for example, it is relevant to a person’s ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job, or where it is relevant to the employer’s common law or statutory occupational health and safety obligations. This chapter examines the various contexts in which employers collect health information and the situations in which this might include genetic information. The chapter summarises the evidence received by the Inquiry about the current use of genetic information by Australian employers and discusses the possible extent of use in the future. Finally, the chapter discusses the interests of employers, employees and the community, which must be balanced in developing policy in this complex and rapidly developing area.

[1]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, opened for signature 19 December 1966, 993 UNTS 3, (entered into force on 10 March 1976), art 6(1).