Apply human rights to your work

The Human Rights Act 2019 (the Act) protects the human rights of every person in Queensland when they interact with the Queensland Government. As public service employees, we have to think about the impact of our decisions and actions on the human rights of Queenslanders whenever we create new laws, apply policies, and deliver services.

Every person in Queensland has the same human rights.

Our new Human Rights Act protects the freedom, equality and dignity of every person in Queensland.

There are specific obligations for public service employees under the Human Rights Act 2019.

Before you make a decision or take an action in your work, you must think about whether it will impact someone’s human rights.

From public service officers, managers, teachers, nurses, police officers to front counter staff; we all have a role to play in respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. All sorts of different people with different needs use our service. There are a number of forms that they must complete which some people find difficult. It is my responsibility under the Human Rights Act to ensure that everyone can access our service equally, so we provide interpreters, offer alternative arrangements like accepting verbal statements in addition to written statements and meeting diverse accessibility requirements from physical access to technology support.

I am happy that the Human Rights Act names Right to Education for children as a specific human right. As a teacher, I see the importance of equal access for children with diverse needs to school and education and the Act now recognises this important right.

Under the Human Rights Act everyone in Queensland has the right to access health services without discrimination, including if they are culturally and linguistically diverse, live in regional and remote areas or have specific beliefs that they wish to follow.

It is my job to keep people safe, protecting their right to life and their physical safety which is called security of person. There are also a number of human rights specifically for people in the criminal justice system to ensure they are treated with dignity and equality.

Every person has the right to take part in public life, including working in the public service. Our recruitment policies must consider equality, for example whether holding a driver’s licence is an essential requirement of a job, or whether a job sharing arrangement could work to provide protection of families and children.

Human rights is a big concept that begins in small ways.

How do you respect, protect and promote human rights in your work?

The Queensland Government has developed a Human Rights Strategy to help agencies embed human rights in every role across the Queensland public service. Human rights will be reflected in planning and reporting, position descriptions, professional development, staff induction and training.

Yes. The Act covers anyone doing work for the Queensland Government. This includes:

  • all departments and agencies
  • emergency services
  • local governments
  • non-government organisations providing public health, disability, education, transport, housing and emergency services. 

If your day-to-day work impacts individuals in Queensland, then you need to think about human rights when you make decisions.

Read scenarios about how human rights might be affected in different types of government policy and decision making.

If you’re not sure whether the Act applies to your work, speak to your manager.

Your work as a Government employee may impact the human rights of Queenslanders when you deal directly with the public or when you make a decision that affects the public.

For example, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) protects people, property and the environment. A QFES representative might recommend that the Commissioner declare a mandatory evacuation of an area facing serious risk to lives because of a fire. This decision will limit the right to freedom of movement for everyone who lives in that area. But it will also protect their right to life. 

Sometimes our actions protect or promote human rights; sometimes they limit human rights.

The following hypothetical case studies demonstrate how human rights can apply at work and how they often need to be considered and measured against one another:

Step 1: What human rights are affected?

The first step is to think about what human rights are affected by the policy, action, or decision.

Learn more about the individual rights on the Queensland Human Rights Commission website or in our guide, Nature and scope of the protected human rights (PDF, 1.02 MB).

Read scenarios about how human rights might be affected in different types of government work.

Step 2: Will human rights be limited?

Sometimes one person’s human rights need to be balanced against the rights of another person or group. For example, everyone in Queensland has the right to freedom of expression—people can have their own opinion and share their ideas.

Everyone in Queensland also has the right to recognition and equality before the law—including protection from discrimination. In some situations, a person’s right to freedom of expression might need to be limited to protect another person from discrimination.

If you aren’t limiting any human rights, you don’t need to go through the rest of the steps.

Step 3: Does the law let me limit human rights?

If you are limiting someone’s human rights, there has to be a law or regulation that allows you to do this. For example, police officers work under a range of laws, including the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000. This is a law that may allow police officers to limit human rights for certain reasons. For example, they might need to limit the right to freedom of movement by blocking off a road to stop people from going into an area where it might not be safe to drive.

If you aren’t sure about the law that allows you to make decisions, speak to your manager.

Step 4: Can I show there is good reason for the limitation and it’s fair?

If you limit someone’s human rights, you have to show that there is good reason for the limitation and it’s fair. Think about:

  1. what the human right is trying to protect
  2. why you need to limit a human right
  3. whether limiting a person’s rights will actually achieve that purpose
  4. whether there is another option that is less restrictive
  5. how important the purpose is
  6. how important it is to protect the right
  7. if there is a fair balance between the reason for limiting the right and the importance of protecting the right.