In this article, we aim to demystify ‘General Protections,’ a term stemming from the Fair Work Act 2009, and the rights and safeguards it offers to Australian employees, with the exception of state government employees. These protections, all-encompassing and diverse, serve to prevent discrimination based on factors such as race, sex, sexual orientation, and age. Predominantly, they ensure that no adverse action is initiated against employees exercising or intending to exercise a workplace right.
Clarifying Workplace Rights:
Workplace rights are multifaceted. These rights range from entitlements like annual leave, sick leave, or parental leave, to the authority to request flexible working conditions. It includes the ability to lodge a legal claim or, more comprehensively, the right to raise complaints or inquiries concerning their employment.
Decoding Adverse Action:
The term ‘adverse action’ embraces a broad spectrum of actions that could potentially harm or injure an employee in their profession. In extreme cases, adverse action can involve employment termination or severe bullying. On a lesser scale, it may constitute unfavourable treatment, exclusion, or demotion.
Employee Rights to Lodge a General Protections Claim:
If you, as an employee, have faced adverse action—ranging from job termination to less severe cases—as a result of executing or intending to execute a workplace right, you may be entitled to file a General Protections claim.
Typically, General Protections claims arise under circumstances such as:
- Retaliation against an employee for lodging a complaint, which might be related to bullying, work hours, working conditions, or entitlements.
- Unfair treatment of an employee for availing maternity or parental leave.
- Discrimination against an employee due to sick leave or absence from work owing to illness or injury.
Potential Risk for Employers:
Employers frequently find themselves in precarious situations when attempting to manage the performance of employees. Instances where employees lodge complaints in response to performance improvement plans can be tricky for employers. If the employer subsequently decides to terminate the employee for poor performance, they risk allegations that the termination was in retaliation to the complaint, leading to potential General Protections claims.
Likely Outcomes of a Successful General Protections Claim:
The outcomes for successful General Protections claims can vary extensively depending on the case’s specifics. One distinguishing aspect is that courts may award compensation for emotional distress, in addition to economic loss. The courts can also levy fines against the employer and the individuals involved in the adverse action as punitive measures. Unlike unfair dismissal claims, there’s no cap on the amount that can be awarded to a successful claimant in a General Protections case.
Call Frontline Employment Defenders Now so we can help you 1300 089 353 or visit https://www.fled.com.au