general protections

General protections are to protect workplace rights, freedom of association, provide protection from workplace discrimination, and to provide relief for those who have been discriminated against or experienced unfair treatment. Adverse actions, such as dismissal of an employee or discrimination against a potential employee who falls under general protections, can result in a general protection application and possible hearing before the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

If an employer receives a notice from the FWC about a general protections application relating to dismissal, it means that an employee believes that their employment was terminated unfairly due to one (or all) of the following reasons:

  • they tried to exercise a workplace right (for example, asking about pay or working conditions)
  • they were dismissed based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, etc.
  • they exercised, or try to exercise their freedom of association to join a union or take part in industrial action.

Employees have 21 days from the date of dismissal to lodge either an unfair dismissal or a general protections dismissal application.

Once the application has been lodged and received by the respondent (usually the employer), they will need to lodge a response to the application with the Commission, and send a copy to the applicant, within seven calendar days.

The notice from FWC means that legal action has been started against the employer, but no decision has been made, or that a result has not yet been determined and further information from the employer is required. A meeting will be arranged to help resolve the dispute, and if that is unsuccessful, a more formal hearing is then held in order to make a decision.

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