The laws in the Fair Work Act cover most employees and businesses. The law protects you in different ways. Check the options that relate to you.
On this page:
General protections laws protect your rights at work. We explain this in understand general protections laws. The laws apply to most employers as well as employees, potential employees, and independent contractors.
Employers that must follow the laws
National system employers must follow the general protections laws. This includes:
- a constitutional corporation. This includes:
- most proprietary limited (Pty Ltd) companies
- foreign corporations incorporated overseas
- trading or financial corporations formed within Australia
- the Australian Government
- a Commonwealth authority, which means:
- a body corporate established for a public purpose by or under a Commonwealth law, or
- a body corporate incorporated under a Commonwealth, state or territory law where the Commonwealth has a controlling interest in that body
- a body corporate incorporated in a territory of Australia
- a business or organisation conducted principally in a territory of Australia or a place acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes.
Businesses that may not be covered
Your workplace may not be covered by the general protections if it is:
- a sole trader or partnership, or a local government body in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia or Western Australia.
- a state government department (except in Victoria)
- a non-corporate state public sector agency (except in Victoria)
- a local government body that is not a corporation
- a local government body not engaged in trading or financial activities.
Employees and potential employees
The general protections laws protect most employees. An employee is a person who has an employment contract with an employer. That employer pays them a salary.
The employee may be permanent (full time or part time), casual or on a fixed-term contract.
The general protections laws cover people who are:
- current employees
- potential employees (such as job applicants).
You are not an employee if:
- you are an independent contractor or subcontractor
- you are not paid for the work you do (such as a volunteer or unpaid intern)
- you are a sole trader.
If you are an employee and you have lost your job, you can apply to us using Form F8.
For other disputes, including if you are applying as a potential employee, use Form F8C.
Employees of recruitment agencies and labour hire companies
If you work through an agency:
- your employer is the agency (the ‘principal’) and they pay you
- the company you do work for is your ‘host’.
Only the agency can dismiss you. You cannot start a claim for dismissal against the host. For applications about dismissal under general protections, you must use Form F8 and give us details of:
- the agency that pays you AND
- the company you do the work for.
For disputes with your principal or your host where you have not lost your job, use Form F8C.
The general protections laws cover independent contractors who have a dispute with a company or person. Use Form F8C to apply to us for help.
Contractors and sub-contractors cannot start a claim for dismissal because you have a contract to provide services, not an employment contract.
Note: different businesses may use the term ‘contractor’ in different ways. See the difference between contractors and employees for more information.
Employers and potential employers
The general protections laws cover current employers and potential employers. A 'potential' employer is most often someone who interviews an applicant for a job vacancy.
An employer or potential employer can only apply for help with a dispute about general protections - no dismissal (Form F8C).
If general protections do not cover you
You may be able to apply for Unlawful termination if these laws do not protect you and you have been dismissed from your job. Other help may also be available:
- anti-discrimination laws in all states and territories
- the industrial relations organisation in your state or territory:
- ACT – you are part of the national workplace relations system
- NSW – Industrial Relations Commission NSW
- NT – you are part of the national workplace relations system
- Qld – Queensland Industrial Relations Commission
- SA – South Australian Employment Tribunal
- Vic – you are part of the national workplace relations system
- WA – Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission
- Tas – Tasmanian Industrial Commission