As an employee in the workforce, you have several protected rights under Fair Work, Anti-Discrimination and workplace legislation. But sometimes it can be difficult to identify these rights and know exactly how they apply to you. Let’s look into your workplace protections and entitlements, identifying employee protections in the workplace.
Under legislation, you as an employee have a ‘workplace right’ if you:
- Have a benefit, role or responsibility under the Fair Work Act or Workers’ Compensation legislation.
- Can make a complaint or inquiry about your employment to a government or corporate body.
- Can start or take part in a process or proceeding under a workplace law or instrument.
In most cases, this means every employee is entitled to workplace rights. Below, we have examined some of the most common and important employee protections under Fair Work, from the right to participate in industrial activities to protections against coercion.
One particular workplace right or employee protection is that of being free to participate in industrial action, associations or trade unions. You should always be allowed to choose if you’d like to:
- Be involved in establishing a union or employer association
- Organise, promote or encourage lawful union activities
- Represent the views, claims and interests of a union or association
- Ask to represent a union or employer association.
Discrimination and Employee Protections
Perhaps one of the most vital employee protections is that of being free from discrimination in the workplace. You are protected from adverse action, coercion, undue influence or pressure, and misrepresentation. What are all of these things?
Adverse action is action that is unlawful if taken up for particular reasons. It includes threatening or acting on any of the following:
- Unlawfully firing you
- Not paying you legal entitlements such as leave or pay
- Discriminating between you and other employees
- Changing your job to your disadvantage
- Not hiring someone
- Offering you unfair terms and conditions for your job compared with other employees
It is also unlawful for your employer or another employee to take adverse action against you for:
- Having or using a workplace right
- Belonging or not belonging to a union
- Taking or not taking part in an industrial activity
- Having a protected attribute
Coercion means forcing you to do something against your will through fear, intimidation or threats. You cannot be forced, for example, to exercise or not exercise a workplace right or employee protection. For example, if you refuse to vote for an enterprise agreement, your employer cannot threaten to sack you, threaten to demote you or change your roster. Coercion can still be unlawful even if it was not successful in forcing you to do something against your will.
Other Employee Protections
You are also protected against undue influence or pressure, and misrepresentation under Fair Work and anti-discrimination laws. Essentially, this means your employer cannot misrepresent facts they know to be true or false and that you cannot be unduly pressured or influenced to do something in the workplace.
The Takeaway: Employee Protections and the Workplace
Employee protections are vital in any workplace. If you, or someone you know, feel as though certain workplace rights and protections are threatened, or you’d like to better understand a particular employee protection, contact our team of experienced employment lawyers. We can advise you on the best steps forward for your individual circumstances as well as clarify the meaning and application of Fair Work legislation and policy.
If you would like help with respect to any area of employment law, including employee protections, please contact one of our experienced lawyers by submitting an online enquiry form, calling us on 1300 QUINNS or alternatively, +61 2 9223 9166 to arrange a teleconference or appointment.
We at The Quinn Group have recently published a FREE informative eBook on employment law. Check it out for all the information you need on employment and contracting in Australia, current as of 1 July 2020. Our updated edition will be available later this year with revised pay rates, casual employment information and National Employment Standards (NES) to align with new legislation. Download Everything You Need to Know about Employment and Contracting in Australia.