The relevant Commonwealth workplace laws prohibit an employee from being terminated on certain grounds, including those that are discriminatory. Generally, an employee has protection from unlawful termination under the General Protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009. However, if a person does not have a protection under these provisions, they are still protected from unlawful termination, as described below.
Unlawful termination is when an employee is dismissed by their employer for reasons including:
- a person’s race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin (some exceptions apply, such as where it’s based on the inherent requirements of the job)
- temporary absence from work because of illness or injury
- trade union membership or non-membership
- participation in trade union activities outside working hours or, with the employer’s consent, during working hours
- seeking office as, or acting as, a representative of employees
- being absent from work during maternity leave or other parental leave
- temporary absence from work to engage in a voluntary emergency management activity
- filing a complaint or participating in proceedings against an employer.
The Fair Work Ombudsman can investigate unlawful termination complaints.