General Protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) were enacted in 2010 to expand existing laws designed to prevent discrimination and wrongful dismissal and to protect workplace rights.
The laws are aptly described as general protections because they provide a form of umbrella protection by upholding Australian values of fair play, equal treatment, freedom of association and permission to speak up or raise complaints when things are wrong in the place of employment.
The law achieves these objectives by prohibiting employers from taking adverse action against a person who exercises a workplace right or engages in industrial activity. There are many workplace rights afforded to employees. The principal ones include:
- The right to make complaints and inquiries during employment. For example, you have a right to make a complaint about your remuneration without fear of adverse action being taken against you;
- The right to take leave when you are sick, have family or carer’s responsibilities, or when you have agreed on a period of annual leave with your employer;
- The right to participate in your union; and
- The right to receive workers compensation for an injury at work.
The law also prevents employers from taking adverse action against a person because of certain attributes, including their:
- Sexual orientation;
- Physical or mental disability;
- Marital status;
- Cultural or social background;
- Political opinion;
- Family or carer responsibilities; or