General protections are a safeguard of your industrial activities and absence from work. It also protects adverse treatment because of your race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. Importantly, General protections also prohibit adverse treatment because an employee has exercised, proposes to exercise or simply has, a “Workplace Right”. An employee has a workplace right if he or she:
- Is entitled to the benefit of a workplace law or instrument; or
- Is able to initiate proceedings under a workplace law or instrument; or
- Is able to make a complaint or inquiry, in relation to his or her employment, to a person who has capacity under a workplace law to seek compliance with a workplace law or instrument.
For an action by an employer to be considered adverse, the employer must have:
- Dismissed the employee; or
- Injured the employee in his or her employment; or
- Altered the position of the employee to the employee’s detriment; or
- Discriminated between the employee and other employees of the employer.
The General Protections are broad in scope and cover prospective employees and independent contractors. The General Protections also have lower requirements for standing; usually making it easier for employees to lodge a claim.
General Protections are civil remedy provisions meaning the court can award pecuniary penalties, damages for hurt, distress and humiliation, compensation for loss (including future economic loss), which is not capped.
If an employer has dismissed you, you have 21 days after the dismissal took effect to lodge an application under the General Protections.