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Understanding General Protections and Adverse Action under the Fair Work Act 2009

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides a variety of general protections designed to maintain the rights of employees within the workplace. To ensure fair work conditions, it’s crucial to understand these protections and recognise when they might be violated through what is known as “adverse action”.

General Protections under the Fair Work Act 2009

Broadly, these general protections include workplace rights, freedom of association, and safeguards against workplace discrimination.

“Adverse action” is any action taken that infringes upon these protections. Such actions can encompass:

  • Termination of employment
  • Refusal to employ a potential worker
  • Causing harm to the employee within their role
  • Changing the employee’s position to their detriment, such as modifying duties or seniority
  • Engaging in discriminatory practices between the employee and their co-workers.

If an employee feels their general protections, as specified under the Fair Work Act 2009, have been violated by an adverse action, they may be entitled to lodge a claim.

Workplace Rights Explored

Workplace rights comprise:

  • Rights under an industrial law or instrument such as the Fair Work Act 2009 or a related award or agreement
  • The ability to partake in a proceeding, such as lodging or supporting a complaint
  • The capability to make a complaint or inquiry under an industrial law or instrument, or regarding employment.

Deciphering Freedom of Association

Freedom of association is the right or choice to participate (or refrain from participating) in industrial activities. This could mean joining a union or initiating an activity for a union or its members.

Protection Against Discrimination

The Fair Work Act 2009 ensures protection from discrimination, safeguarding employees from adverse actions taken due to discriminatory reasons such as sex, relationship status, pregnancy, parental status, or religious beliefs.

Ensuring Employee Protection

The Act offers protection against both actual adverse actions taken or not taken, as well as those merely threatened.

Should an employee experience adverse action, they or their union can apply to have the dispute heard and resolved.

Critical Application Timelines

If an adverse action results in an employee’s dismissal, an application should be made within 21 days after the dismissal has taken effect. In certain exceptional circumstances, this timeline may be extended.

Call Frontline Employment Defenders Now so we can help if you have been bullied or unfairly dismissed on1300 089 353 or visit

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