General protections are a series of “protections” in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that aim to:
- protect your workplace rights;
- protect against coercion, intimidation and misrepresentation;
- protect you from sham contracting;
- protect freedom of association;
- provide protection from discrimination at work; and
- provide effective relief for anyone who is discriminated against, victimised, or otherwise treated unfairly at work.
General protections do this by providing that a person (usually your employer or supervisor) must not take ‘adverse action’. This means that a person must not terminate you, discriminate between you and other workers or treat you unfavourably because you have a workplace right, have exercised a workplace right, or you propose to exercise a workplace right.
The legal meaning of workplace right is very broad. You have workplace rights to make a complaint or enquiry about your employment (like seeking a pay rise), insisting on being paid correctly or receiving your lawful entitlements. This can also include occupational health and safety matters, discrimination legislation, and includes any right contained within the Fair Work Act and associated legislation and regulation.
A general protections claim may be related to your dismissal, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still be working somewhere and use the general protections provisions to assert your rights at work.
If you are about to be terminated for exercising a workplace right, act quickly. Courts have the power to stop your boss from terminating you if they have breached the general protection provisions of the Fair Work Act including by issuing injunctions.
You may also be entitled to compensation and your boss can be fined – with the fine being paid to you.
If you want to find out more about your ability to claim general protections, contact a member of our employment law team.