UNIONS and human rights advocates have urged the Gillard government to strengthen proposed discrimination laws to provide greater protection to carers.
In November, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon released draft legislation to consolidate, harmonise and simplify the five existing federal discrimination laws.
A Senate committee is examining the proposals.
While the draft laws prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of "family responsibilities'', the ACTU says it should be expanded to ban discrimination on grounds of "family and carers' responsibilities''.
The ACTU submission said the draft bill's narrow definition excluded the network of relationships and care obligations of some groups, such as Aboriginal people.
"Adding the term 'caring' to the phrase takes the emphasis off the family relationship between the two parties and focuses it on the level of obligation and the act of caring for someone, which more effectively reflects the needs of the carer and the intention of the bill,'' the submission said.
It also says such protections should not be limited to employment but apply to all areas of public life, as do the protections for other attributes such as race and gender.
The Shop Distributive & Allied Employees Association, the largest single trade union in the country, and the Australian Human Rights Commission also called for explicit protections for carers.
In its submission the Organisation Intersex International Australia said stronger protections were needed for intersex people. The bill introduces the first federal protections against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity. But the organisation said this was not sufficient protection.
"Intersex people suffer stigmatisation and discrimination, and we need explicit protection,'' it said.