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What are general protections?

Your employees are protected by a number of rights which are known as general protections.

If you sack a worker, or take some form of adverse action against them for exercising one of these rights, you could find yourself defending a costly general protections claim.

Your workers have a right to:

  • make a complaint or inquiry about their pay or working conditions
  • a temporary absence from work because of an illness or injury
  • trade union membership or non-union membership
  • participate in trade union activities
  • be absent from work during maternity leave or other parental leave
  • a temporary absence from work to volunteer for emergency service activity

Workers who make formal complaints about sexual harassment or any form of discrimination, or who plan to make such a complaint, are also protected by general protections legislation.

Defending a Sexual Harassment Claim?


Defending a Discrimination Claim?

What is adverse action?

Taking adverse action against one of your employees means exactly that – punishing them in some way, or taking some sort of action that will result in a negative consequence for them.

The most serious adverse action you take against an employee is sacking them.

Other adverse action can include:

  • changing your employee’s working conditions to their disadvantage (like reducing their number of shifts)
  • denying them a promotion or professional development and training
  • demoting them
  • forcing them to resign

Reverse onus of proof

If your employee can prove that they were exercising a workplace right, or were planning to exercise a workplace right, when you took adverse action against them, it is up to you as the employer to prove that wasn’t the reason you took the action that you did.

This is known as a reverse onus of proof.

The Fair Work Commission

General protections claims are adjudicated by the Fair Work Commission.

You may be required to attend a compulsory conciliation session at the Commission where you will be encouraged to resolve the matter before it reaches a full hearing.

This may involve you offering a payment of compensation to your employee, or reinstating them if they have been dismissed, or writing them an apology.

Our team at Employwise has extensive experience negotiating on behalf of employers in these conciliation sessions, and can advocate on your behalf, and advise you of your best options moving forward.

General protections claims can be costly

Unlike compensation for unfair dismissals, general protections compensation is uncapped, so if your employee or former employee is successful in their claim, it could cost your business tens of thousands of dollars.

The sooner you contact our team at Employwise, the better chance we will have to help you achieve the outcome you are hoping for, so don’t delay.

If you are defending a general protections claim, we can help.

Please call our specialist team at Employwise today on

1800 00 WISE (1800 00 9473)

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