Know Your Rights: 8 Statutory Rights of Employees in AustraliaJuly 27, 2023
It is important to have a good understanding of your rights at work to ensure that you are treated fairly and have a safe working environment. In this article, we will investigate the eight legal rights that all employees should be aware of. These rights cover key areas such as fair treatment, protection against discrimination and harassment, and safeguarding against unfair dismissal.
By familiarising yourself with the provisions of the Fair Work Act and other relevant laws, you will gain the confidence to assert your rights. Whether you are new to the workforce or have been working for a while, this guide will be a valuable tool to navigate the complexities of employment rights in Australia.
The Right to a Safe and Healthy Work Environment
Every employee has the right to a safe and healthy work environment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&S Act) sets out the legal obligations of employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees. This includes ensuring that the workplace is free from hazards, providing appropriate safety equipment and training, and implementing measures to prevent accidents and injuries.
Employers must conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimise these risks. They should also provide employees with information and training on safety procedures and emergency protocols. If you have concerns about the safety of your workplace, you should report them to your employer or the designated safety representative. If your employer fails to address these concerns, you have the right to escalate the issue to the relevant workplace health and safety authority.
Employees also have the right to a healthy work environment that promotes their mental well-being. This includes measures to prevent workplace bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Employers should have clear policies in place to address these issues and provide support to employees who experience them. If you are facing any form of harassment or discrimination, it is important to report it to your employer or a designated authority within your business.
The Right to Fair and Equal Treatment
The right to fair and equal treatment is an important statutory right of employees in Australia. The Fair Work Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of various protected attributes, including age, race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. Employers are legally required to provide equal employment opportunities and treat all employees fairly, regardless of their background or personal characteristics.
This means that employers cannot make decisions about recruitment, promotion, or termination based on discriminatory grounds. They must also provide reasonable workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities, ensuring that they have equal access to employment opportunities. If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you have the right to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or your state or territory anti-discrimination body.
It is also worth noting that the Fair Work Act provides protections for employees who choose to exercise their workplace rights or engage in industrial activities. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against employees, such as dismissing or demoting them, for exercising their rights. If you believe you have been treated unfairly for asserting your workplace rights, you may be eligible to make a claim for unlawful termination or adverse action.
The Right to Receive the Minimum Wage and Entitlements
Employees in Australia have the right to receive the minimum wage and other entitlements as set out in the relevant modern award or enterprise agreement. The Fair Work Commission annually reviews and sets the minimum wage, considering factors such as the needs of low-paid workers and the state of the economy.
In addition to the minimum wage, employees are entitled to other benefits, such as overtime pay, penalty rates, and allowances. These entitlements vary depending on factors such as the industry, occupation, and working conditions. It is important to familiarise yourself with the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement to ensure that you are receiving all the entitlements to which you are entitled.
Employers are legally required to provide employees with a pay slip that details their wages and entitlements. This is to ensure transparency and accountability in the payment of wages. If you have concerns about your wages or entitlements, you should raise them with your employer or seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Right to Leave and Flexibility
Employees in Australia have the right to take various types of leave, including annual leave, personal/carer’s leave, and long service leave. These leave entitlements are designed to provide employees with time off from work for rest, recreation, and personal reasons.
Annual leave allows employees to take paid time off for holidays or leisure activities. The Fair Work Act sets out the minimum amount of annual leave that employees are entitled to, which is four weeks per year. Some modern awards or enterprise agreements may provide for additional annual leave entitlements.
Personal/carer’s leave, also known as sick leave, allows employees to take paid time off when they are unwell or need to care for a family member who is ill or injured. Employees are entitled to a certain number of days of personal/carer’s leave per year, depending on their employment status and length of service.
Long service leave is an additional entitlement that provides employees with an extended period of paid leave after a certain period of continuous service. The length of long service leave and the qualifying period vary depending on the relevant state or territory legislation.
In addition to these forms of leave, employees also have the right to request flexible working arrangements, such as part-time work, job-sharing, or working from home. Employers are legally required to consider these requests and can only refuse them on reasonable business grounds. If your request for flexible working arrangements is unreasonably refused, you may have the right to make a complaint to the Fair Work Commission.
The Right to Protection Against Discrimination and Harassment
Employees in Australia have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The Fair Work Act and other anti-discrimination legislation provide protections against discrimination on various grounds, including age, race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation.
Discrimination can take many forms, including direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, and harassment. Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favorably because of a protected attribute. Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a requirement, condition, or practice that appears neutral but disproportionately affects a particular group of people with a protected attribute. Harassment involves unwanted behavior that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment.
Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. They should have clear policies in place that set out expectations of behavior and provide mechanisms for employees to report incidents of discrimination or harassment. If you experience discrimination or harassment, it is important to report it to your employer or a designated authority within your organization. You may also have the right to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or your state or territory anti-discrimination body.
The Right to Long Service Leave and Redundancy Pay
Employees in Australia also have the right to long service leave and redundancy pay under certain circumstances. Long service leave provides employees with an extended period of paid leave after a certain period of continuous service with the same employer. The length of long service leave and the qualifying period vary depending on the relevant state or territory legislation.
Redundancy pay is a form of compensation that employers are required to provide to employees whose positions become redundant. The amount of redundancy pay depends on factors such as the length of service and the size of the employer’s business. It is important to familiarise yourself with the relevant provisions of the Fair Work Act or any applicable modern award or enterprise agreement to understand your entitlements in the event of redundancy.
The Right to Fair Dismissal and Unfair Dismissal Claims
Employees in Australia have the right to fair dismissal and protection against unfair dismissal. The Fair Work Act sets out the circumstances in which a dismissal is considered fair, such as for serious misconduct or genuine operational reasons. Employers must follow a fair process when dismissing an employee, including providing them with notice or payment in lieu of notice.
If you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, you have the right to lodge an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission. To be eligible to make a claim, you must have completed a minimum period of employment (usually 6 or 12 months, depending on the size of the employer’s business) and not be covered by any exemptions or exclusions. The time limit for making an unfair dismissal claim is 21 days from termination. If you miss this time frame, you may lose your right to compensation.
The Fair Work Commission will assess the fairness of the dismissal based on factors such as the reason for the dismissal, the procedural fairness of the process, and the size and resources of the employer. If the Commission finds that the dismissal was unfair, it may order reinstatement, compensation, or other remedies.
Resources and Support for Understanding and Enforcing Employee Rights
Understanding and enforcing your rights as an employee can be complex, but there are resources and support available to assist you. The Fair Work Ombudsman is a government agency that provides information and advice on workplace rights and obligations. They can help you understand your entitlements, investigate breaches of workplace law, issue compliance notices and assist with making a complaint or claim.
There are also industrial advocate like us who specialise in employment law and offer legal advice, representation to employees and employers. We can help you understand your rights, provide guidance on resolving workplace issues, and advocate on your behalf if necessary.
It is important to keep yourself informed about changes to employment laws and regulations. The Fair Work Commission regularly updates modern awards and enterprise agreements, so it is important to check for any changes that may affect your entitlements. Staying informed and seeking assistance when needed will empower you to assert your rights confidently and navigate the ever-changing landscape of employment rights in Australia.
Fair Work Commission is more about resolving disputes as well as dismissal and general protections, Ombudsman will investigate incorrect pay and entitlements, breaches to law eg work health safety- sometimes even with incorrect pay they refer ppl to call commission or legal advice to pursue matter.
Knowing your rights as an employee in Australia is important for ensuring fair treatment, a safe working environment, and access to important entitlements.
By understanding the key provisions of the Fair Work Act and other relevant legislation, you can assert your rights confidently and advocate for fair treatment in the workplace.
Remember to seek support from resources such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and industrial advocates if you need assistance in understanding or enforcing your rights.