Historically protections from unlawful actions being taken in or in relation to the workplace have been scattered throughout legislation. The introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009 saw these provisions collected together in a single Part.
The principal protections have been divided into:
- protections relating to workplace rights (which can be broadly described as employment entitlements and the freedom to exercise and enforce those entitlements)
- engaging in industrial activities (which encompasses the freedom to be or not be a member or officer of an industrial association and to participate in lawful activities, including those of an industrial association)
- other protections including protection from discrimination, and
- sham arrangements.
Certain persons, including employers, principals, employees and industrial associations; are prohibited from taking adverse action against certain other persons because the other person has, or exercises, a workplace right, or engages in industrial activity. Adverse action includes dismissal of an employee but also includes a range of other action such as prejudicing an employee or independent contractor and organising industrial action against another person. Coercion and misrepresentation in relation to workplace rights and industrial activities are also prohibited.