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Untangling the Complexities of Australian Employment Law: Unpacking General Protections and Adverse Action Claims

Untangling the intricacies of Australian employment law might appear daunting to those unfamiliar with its complexities. Within the broad framework of this law, General Protections and Adverse Action Claims hold crucial significance. Today, we aim to simplify these labyrinthine legal constructs in a user-friendly format.

Securing Employee Rights: The Role of General Protections

Enshrined within Australian employment law, General Protections serve as a robust shield against workplace discrimination and unjust practices. Laid out in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), these regulations strive to create an egalitarian, fair and just professional environment for all employees.

Here’s what you need to grasp:

  1. A general protections claim doesn’t necessitate dismissal.
  2. Discrimination, lack of legal entitlements, or differential treatment compared to other employees can all trigger a general protections claim.
  3. In the event of an employer contravening these protections, you have the right to swiftly initiate legal action.

Like an unfair dismissal claim, disputes related to dismissal require initial resolution at a Fair Work Commission (FWC) conference.

Diverse Coverage of General Protections

General Protections extend their shield over an array of situations, all falling under the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). They protect employees from negative employer actions tied to:

  • Discriminatory attributes such as ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, age, among others.
  • Union membership or active participation.
  • Valid absences from work due to health reasons, injury, or parental leave.
  • Work-related complaints or enquiries.

In such situations, the claimant is tasked with providing the initial evidence, proving that the negative action was a reaction to a protected attribute or activity. The duty then swings to the employer to disprove these claims.

Outcomes of Successful General Protection Claims

Upon successful litigation of a general protections claim, the court may decree:

  • Compensation for financial loss, which has no ceiling.
  • Compensation for non-economic loss, including suffering, distress, or embarrassment.
  • Fines according to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Deciphering Adverse Action Claims

Adverse action claims, often presented alongside unfair dismissal claims, form a subsection of general protections claims. Adverse actions could range from dismissal, detrimental changes in job conditions, or biased treatment. There’s no requirement of dismissal or termination to trigger an adverse action claim.

To validate an adverse action claim, the employee first needs to make a convincing case that a protected attribute or activity was a motivating factor for the adverse action. It then becomes the employer’s task to demonstrate that the protected attribute or activity didn’t impact their decision.

Unfair Dismissal vs. General Protections: Differentiating the Terms

Although unfair dismissal and general protections may seem similar, they are distinct concepts.

Unfair dismissal concerns wrongful termination by your employer, whereas general protections focus on preserving your basic rights as an employee, regardless of dismissal.

Recognising the category that best aligns with your situation is of utmost importance. If you believe you’ve suffered from unfair dismissal or your general protections have been violated, it’s key to seek professional guidance.

This blog post aims to clarify these layered concepts. However, it should be considered as a stepping stone and not a substitute for advice from our paid agents at Frontline Employment Defenders.

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

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