Last updated 1 December 2020
Section 18 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (Human Rights Act) protects people from slavery and certain forms of forced work.
Subsection 18(1) states that a person must not be held in slavery or servitude. It acknowledges that exercising powers of ownership over another is inherently wrong and that people should not be subject to conditions violating their dignity and integrity. However, as with subs 17(a), which provides the right to freedom from torture, it will only apply in extreme or severe cases.
Subsection 18(2) prevents a person from being made to perform forced or compulsory labour. This means work that a person has not voluntarily offered to do, but is done under threat of penalty.
Subsection 18(2) prohibits forced or compulsory labour and does not include work or service:
- required because of a court order
- performed under a State Penalties Enforcement Registry work and development order
- performed during emergencies or undertaken as part of normal civil obligations (such as jury duty).
The right to freedom from forced work will be subject to the general limitation provision in s 13 of the Human Rights Act. This provides human rights may be subject under law to reasonable limits, which are justified in a free and democratic society. See ‘Human Rights may be Limited’ for further explanation.
There have been no reported Australian cases on the right to freedom from forced work, however, it is likely the right will be engaged:
- where a policy or law requires a person to work under threat or penalty, or to be forced into service for example military conscription.
- where there has been any exercise of powers of ownership over another, and this is permitted by a policy, law decision or action of a public entity (e.g. where people are forced to work in conditions of slavery including people trafficking and sex trafficking).