The law protects most employees from unfair dismissal. We explain who is protected and who is not.
On this page:
Criteria to identify protected employees
The law protects employees who:
- work for a national system employer AND
- work for at least the minimum employment period before the dismissal (6 months, or 12 months if the employer is a small business) AND
- earn less than the high-income threshold AND
- (casual employees only) work on a regular and systematic basis before dismissal and have a good reason to believe this would continue.
The law also protects employees who earn more than the high-income threshold if:
- an award covers their employment OR
- an enterprise agreement applies to their employment.
Who is a national system employer?
Most, but not all, employers in Australia are national system employers. This means that most workers are national system employees.
The full definition is in section 14 of the Fair Work Act 2009.
|Location||Employees in the national system||Employees outside the national system|
|Australian Capital Territory||
|New South Wales||
|Norfolk Island, the Territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands||
Foreign or overseas companies
Employees may work in Australia for a company formed overseas. Usually, employees of foreign corporations are national system employees.
Types of employment outside the national system
You are not a national systems employee if you work:
- as an independent contractor
- as an unpaid volunteer
- in an unpaid educational placement through your school, university or other institution
- for any organisation outside the national system in each state and territory.
People who work through a labour hire agency
A ‘labour hire worker’ is someone who has a work contract with a labour hire agency.
Examples of labour hire workers or agency staff are:
- a nurse working for a nursing agency
- a cook working for a hospitality agency.
In this situation:
- the labour hire agency has a contract with the worker and pays them
- the labour hire agency has a contract with a host firm to supply workers
- the host firm pays the agency, not the worker.
If you are a labour hire worker you cannot apply for unfair dismissal against the host firm. You may apply for unfair dismissal against the agency. Labour hire agencies are national system employers.