The law recognises that treating people equally does not always mean treating people exactly the same.
The Equal Opportunity Act allows schemes or undertakings to assist people of a particular disability, race, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, intersex status, gender identity or to assist pregnant women and people with caring responsibilities. Schemes or undertakings are also known as "special measures". Special measures can be set up in any area of public life covered by equal opportunity laws.
To be a special measure, a scheme should:
- have a clear, pre-determined aim or outcome for the benefit of a particular disadvantaged group
- have reasonably developed guidelines
- be ongoing.
To be a special measure, an undertaking can:
- be a discrete project for the benefit of a particular disadvantaged group
- have limited scope or be a "one off"
- have fewer guidelines
- have an end point.
How to get special measure status
You do not need to apply or get approval for a scheme or undertaking if it intends to achieve equal opportunity for people of a particular disability, race, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, intersex status, gender identity or for pregnant women and people with caring responsibilities.
It will generally be covered by an existing exemption in the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA). If you aren’t sure if your scheme or undertaking is a special measure, contact us for advice.
If a discrimination complaint is made against your scheme or undertaking, you will need to give good reasons to the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity as to how and why it is a special measure.
If your scheme or undertaking does not fit within an existing exemption in the Act you may still be able to apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a temporary exemption.