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Understanding the Fundamentals of General Protections Claim

In our complex workplace environment, it’s crucial to understand our rights and responsibilities, and this is where the concept of General Protections comes into play. These protections, provided under the Fair Work legislation, act as a shield, protecting employees and certain other individuals from various undesirable actions at the workplace.

What exactly are General Protections?

Simply put, General Protections are a set of safeguards designed to foster a respectful and fair workplace environment. These protections are designed to shield workplace rights, encourage freedom of association, and guard against workplace discrimination. They also offer remedies to individuals who have experienced discrimination, victimization, or other forms of unjust treatment. Furthermore, they discourage coercion and misrepresentation related to workplace rights and lawful industrial activities.

Getting to know General Protections Claims

When an employee or independent contractor faces ‘adverse action’ because they were either asserting a workplace right, engaging lawfully in industrial activities, or facing discrimination due to reasons such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction, or social origin, they may qualify to make a General Protections Claim.

Additionally, a person can make such a claim if they have been subjected to a ‘sham arrangement’, where they were purportedly engaged as an independent contractor while, in reality, they were performing as an employee.

Various entities, including employers, principals, employees, and industrial associations, are barred from taking ‘adverse action’ against others, including current and former employees, potential employees, and independent contractors. Although it’s mostly employers who take ‘adverse action’ against a worker, there could be situations where an employee faces such actions from another employee.

Adverse Action: What does it imply?

Adverse action can include actions such as firing an employee, unjustly demoting them, causing harm by changing their job in ways such as reducing shifts or hours, discriminating among employees, rejecting a job applicant, or offering an aspiring employee unjust terms and conditions compared to other employees. However, not all detrimental actions will qualify as ‘adverse’ for a General Protections Claim.

How do Unfair Dismissal Claim and General Protections Claim differ?

The Unfair Dismissal Claim pertains to an employee being sacked from their job in an unjust, harsh, or unreasonable way, while an adverse action for a General Protections Claim does not necessarily need to end in dismissal.

General protections serve to protect workers’ rights more comprehensively, while Unfair Dismissal Claims specifically protect employees from unreasonable dismissal by an employer. Additionally, there are certain nuances related to income thresholds, the maximum claim amount, and minimum employment periods that differentiate these two types of claims.

Initiating a General Protections Claim

If you feel your worker rights have been violated and you’ve been subjected to adverse action, you might be qualified to initiate a General Protections Claim. The process to do so will vary based on the nature of your claim, especially whether it relates to dismissal or not.

If you have a non-dismissal related claim, you can file it up to six years after the incident. However, unlike a dismissal-related claim, you can submit your application directly to the Commission or the Court. The Court will then schedule a hearing and may issue binding orders. If a party declined to participate in a conference at the Commission before applying to the Court, the Court might impose cost orders against that party for unreasonably refusing to participate.

Understanding and asserting your rights is the first step towards creating a fair and respectful workplace. If you feel that you’ve been subjected to unfair treatment or adverse action, don’t hesitate to seek help and explore the possibility of a General Protections Claim.

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