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General Protections: What Are They?

adverse action anti-discrimination employee rights gender equality general protections hr compliance industrial action legal action protected attributes Dec 21, 2023

So, what are the general protections from a Fair Work lens? General protections seek to protect workers from harmful (adverse) action, coercion, undue influence or pressure, and misrepresentation where they affect workplace rights.


The role of the general protections is to:

  • Protect workplace rights
  • Protect freedom of association
  • Provide protection from workplace discrimination, and
  • provide effective relief for persons who have been discriminated against, victimised, or have experienced other unfair treatment.


So, what's adverse action then?

Adverse action can include things such as being fired, demoted and/or overlooked for a promotion. In most cases, the employer is the one taking such actions against the employee.

While hiring, firing, and demoting an employee are all lawful actions, within reason of course. An employee cannot take adverse action against an employee for a reason that is unlawful, including:

  • Because an employee utilised their workplace rights i.e., taking leave.
  • Because of an employees age, sex, disability or any other reason that could be classified as discriminatory.
  • Because an employee was away from work due to a sickness or injury.


Who do these general protections cover?

For employers, it can be slightly complicated and may depend on your business structure. However, for employees is it considerably easier. Generally speaking, these protections cover most employees (where an 'employee' is defined as anyone who has an employment contract and is paid).  The term 'employee' also covers:

  • Current employees
  • Past employees 
  • potential employees i.e., candidates who have applied for a position



If you feel that your employment has been wrongfully terminated due to one of the prohibited reasons listed above, please reach out to the Employii Team at [email protected]


For more information on the general protections from the Fair Work Commission, please click here.



Author: Chelsea Finlay (HR Officer).