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Employment Law (ACT)

In the ACT, employment is regulated under both state and federal law. The Fair Work Act 2009 applies to all employees in the ACT. It sets out the National Employment Standards and regulates the operation of awards and enterprise agreements and provides protections for workers subjected to unfair or unlawful dismissal. ACT legislation including the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Workers Compensation Act 1951 also provides protections for workers. This article deals with employment law in the ACT.

WorkSafe ACT

WorkSafe ACT regulates workers compensation legislation and ensures employers are fulfilling their obligation in relation to workers compensation. Workers compensation in the ACT is provided by private insurers approved by WorkSafe. If a worker has a claim to make, they should start the process by notifying their employer. Their employer must notify the insurer within 48 hours.  

WorkSafe is also responsible for issuing licences including labour hire licenses, asbestos licences and dangerous goods driver licences.

WorkSafe mut be notified if an incident occurs at work where a person dies, sustains serious injury or illness, or if a dangerous incident such as a spillage or explosion occurs.

Unfair dismissal

Unfair dismissal occurs when an employee has their employment terminated in a way that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable. A person may make a claim for unfair dismissal if they have worked for the employer for at least six months and earn less than the high-income threshold (currently $158,500 per annum) or are covered by an award or enterprise agreement.

Common situations where a person is unfairly dismissed include where the person is given a redundancy that is not a genuine redundancy, where a person is dismissed and not given a reason, or where a person is dismissed for poor performance without being given a warning that they were performing poorly.

A person is not unfairly dismissed if they receive a genuine redundancy, where they resign voluntarily or where they were employed only for a fixed period.

A complaint about unfair dismissal can be made to the Fair Work Commission. If the Commission finds the person was unfairly dismissed, it may order that the employee be reinstated or that compensation be paid to them.   

Unlawful dismissal

Unlawful dismissal occurs when an employee has their employment terminated for a reason that is prohibited under the Fair Work Act. These include temporary absence because of illness, membership of a trade union, or because of their race, religion, sex, disability or another prescribed attribute.

Complaints about unlawful dismissal can be made to the Fair Work Commission. Remedies for unlawful termination include reinstatement, compensation and payment of lost remuneration.

Workplace bullying and sexual harassment

The Fair Work Act prohibits bullying and sexual harassment at work. The Act defines bullying as an unreasonable behaviour towards a person by another person or group of people in a way that creates a risk to their health or safety.

An employee can make a complaint about bullying or sexual harassment to the Fair Work Commission, which has the power to make orders to stop the bullying or sexual harassment.

A complaint about bullying or sexual harassment can also be made to WorkSafe. If a physical or psychological injury has been sustained, the employee may make a claim under the Workers Compensation Act.

In some circumstances, bullying and harassment may also amount to discrimination

Workplace discrimination

In the ACT, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion and various other attributes in prohibited at work and in a number of other areas of public life. Both territory and federal legislation prohibited discrimination at work. The ACT Discrimination Act 1991 prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected attributed in the ACT. Federal legislation including the Sex Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Race Discrimination Act prohibit unlawful discrimination at a national level.

Complaints about discrimination can be made to the ACT Human Rights Commission or to the Australian Human Rights Commission. If you are unsure whether a complaint should be made at territory or federal level, seek specialist legal advice.

National employment standards

The national employment standards are set out in Part 2.2 of the Fair Work Act. They set out the obligations of employers in relation to the terms of employment, including the maximum number of hours a person can be required to work, how request for flexible work arrangements are to be dealt with and the circumstances under which an employer must offer a regular casual worker the opportunity to convert their employment to full time or part time employment.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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