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Simplifying Australian Employment Law: A Comprehensive Guide to General Protections and Adverse Action Claims

The maze-like structure of Australian employment law can be overwhelming for those who lack a background in this field. Integral elements of this legislation are General Protections and Adverse Action Claims. This article aims to demystify these intricate aspects, presenting them in an approachable manner.

Preserving Worker Rights: Understanding General Protections

A cornerstone of Australian employment law, General Protections act as a sturdy guard against discriminatory behaviour and unfair practices at the workplace. Defined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), these laws work towards fostering an equitable, fair, and just working atmosphere for all employees.

Here are the critical points you need to comprehend:

  1. Filing a general protections claim does not require dismissal.
  2. Experiences of discrimination, the absence of legal rights, or unequal treatment compared to fellow employees can all serve as grounds for a general protections claim.
  3. If an employer breaches these protections, you are entitled to quickly pursue legal recourse.

Similar to an unfair dismissal claim, disputes about dismissal initially require mediation at a Fair Work Commission (FWC) conference.

General Protections: A Wide-Ranging Safety Net

General Protections cast a wide net, covering an assortment of situations, all regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). They defend employees from negative actions by employers in relation to:

  • Discriminatory characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, age, and more.
  • Union membership or active involvement.
  • Justifiable work absences due to health conditions, injuries, or parental leave.
  • Work-related complaints or inquiries.

In these cases, the claimant must first present evidence to show that the negative action resulted from a protected characteristic or activity. The responsibility then shifts to the employer to challenge these claims.

Potential Results of Successful General Protection Claims

Successful litigation of a general protections claim can result in the court ruling:

  • Compensation for monetary loss, which has no upper limit.
  • Compensation for non-monetary damages, including pain, distress, or humiliation.
  • Penalties in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Interpreting Adverse Action Claims

Adverse action claims, typically associated with unfair dismissal claims, fall under the category of general protections claims. Adverse actions can vary from dismissal, harmful modifications in job terms, to prejudiced treatment. Filing an adverse action claim doesn’t require dismissal or termination.

To establish an adverse action claim, the employee needs to first create a persuasive case that a protected characteristic or activity influenced the adverse action. It then becomes the employer’s responsibility to prove that the protected characteristic or activity didn’t affect their decision.

Differentiating Unfair Dismissal and General Protections

While unfair dismissal and general protections might seem interchangeable, they represent distinct legal concepts.

Unfair dismissal pertains to unjust termination by your employer, while general protections focus on preserving your fundamental rights as an employee, regardless of dismissal.

Identifying the category that corresponds with your situation is paramount. If you suspect you’ve experienced unfair dismissal or if your general protections have been compromised, it’s essential to seek professional advice.

This article is designed to elucidate these complex legal matters. However, it’s a stepping stone and should not replace professional counsel. For further advice, consult our paid representatives at Frontline Employment Defenders.

Call Frontline Employment Defenders Now so we can help you 1300 089 353 or visit

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