As a manager, understanding employee rights and entitlements is non-negotiable. The truth is, all employees deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. It’s not just good for business; it’s the law. In Australia, there are many sources of an employee’s rights and entitlements, including employment contracts, National Employment Standards, and any other applicable modern awards or enterprise agreements. These rights protect employees from discrimination, bullying, harassment, and other issues within the workplace.
In order to ensure that you are treating your employees fairly, it is vital for managers to fully grasp employee rights and entitlements beyond the surface level. In today’s article, we explore 8 must-know employee rights, in a bid to ensure that you are fulfilling your duty of care as a manager. Read on to find out more.
Top Employee Rights To Learn About As A Manager
1. The Right To Raise A Concern Without Consequence
According to Section 341 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), all employees have the right to raise a problem or concern without consequence. Federal and state laws grant employees rights such as minimum wage, overtime pay, and freedom from workplace discrimination and/or harassment. If an employer or anyone within an organization interferes with an employee’s rights, that employee has a right to complain without the fear of reprisal.
As a manager, addressing employee complaints can be an effective way to identify ways to improve workplace practices and policies and help avoid complaints to external agencies and/or legal action. If you are unsure of what steps to take when it comes to employee complaints, we highly recommend seeking professional advice from an experienced lawyer in Melbourne.
2. The Right To Fair Pay & Wages
By law, employees are entitled to the right to fair pay and wages in Australia. Businesses that underpay their employees could be fined or face further serious consequences as a result of such actions. An award sets out the minimum pay and conditions for a particular industry or occupation. While some employees aren’t covered by an award or agreement, all employees in Australia are entitled to a minimum wage the National Employment Standards entitlements which include:
- maximum weekly hours
- requests for flexible working arrangements
- offers and requests to convert from casual to permanent employment
- parental leave and related entitlements
- annual leave
- personal/carer’s leave, compassionate leave, and unpaid family and domestic violence leave
- community service leave
- long service leave
- public holidays
- notice of termination and redundancy pay
Additionally, employees are entitled to receive a payslip within one working day of being paid. When in doubt, managers can find out more about minimum pay rates and employment conditions in the relevant award or agreement.
3. The Right To Request Employment Records
By law, a current or former employee has the right to request to inspect or request a copy of their employee records. As such, employers or managers are obligated to keep records on file for at least 7 years and must make copies available at the request of an employee or former employee. Employers are also required to provide the records within 3 business days of the request or send a copy of the records within 14 days of receiving the request if the records are kept on-site or at the workplace. Additionally, records must not be misleading or false. If your company fails to comply, you may be penalized.
4. Protection From Unfair Dismissal
By definition, unfair dismissal is when an employee is dismissed from their job in a harsh, unjust, or unreasonable manner. Employers must have a valid reason when terminating an employee, some of which include poor performance, misconduct, dangerous behavior, refusing to follow instructions, and/or no further need for the position (redundancy or retrenchment). If an employee feels they have been wrongfully dismissed, they are entitled to contact the Fair Work Commission and apply for unfair dismissal.
As a manager, it is important to note that employees need to be employed for at least 6 months before they can apply for unfair dismissal. Alternatively, employees working for a small business need to be employed for at least 12 months before they can apply. In order to avoid being at the receiving end of an unfair dismissal application, following the proper termination process is key.
Find out more about dismissing staff properly here.
5. Protection From Workplace Bullying
In Australia, all employees are protected against bullying and harassment within the workplace. Workplace bullying is classified as repeated and unreasonable verbal, physical, social, or psychological abuse by employers, managers, and/or co-workers towards employees. Examples of workplace bullying include:
- behaving aggressively towards others;
- teasing or playing practical jokes;
- pressuring an employee to behave inappropriately;
- excluding someone from work-related events; and
- unreasonable work demands.
It is also important to note that in some instances, workplace bullying may extend beyond the working environment – for example, through communications sent outside work hours. Employees who are bullied have the right to contact the Fair Work Commission and make a formal application to stop bullying. There are also national bodies that may be able to help, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
6. Protection From Discrimination
All employees have the right to be protected from workplace discrimination and it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee. Unlawful discrimination in the workplace occurs when a person is treated less favorably because of their background or personal attributes, including:
- sexual orientation
- skin color
- physical or mental disability
- marital status
- family or carer’s responsibilities
- political opinion
- national extraction or social origin
It is vital for managers to understand that treating someone differently is not necessarily unlawful discrimination. Different treatment based on performance management may not be an unlawful discrimination issue. In terms of the Fair Work Act, an action is only considered adverse action if it occurs due to one or more of the above attributes. If this is not the basis of the action, it may not be considered unlawful discrimination.
7. Protection From Sexual Harassment
All employees have the right to a workplace that is safe and free from sexual harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. As such, managers and employers are obligated to manage the health and safety risks of workplace sexual harassment. Under the Fair Work Act, sexual harassment is:
- an unwelcome sexual advance;
- an unwelcome request for sexual favors; and/or
- other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person.
It is important to note that an employee could also be sexually harassed by being exposed to or witnessing this kind of behavior in the workplace, and a workplace culture that is sexually permeated or hostile will also amount to unlawful sexual harassment. Additionally, sexual harassment in the workplace needn’t be repeated or continuous. It can be a one-off incident. Employees who have been sexually harassed have the right to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
8. Fair Work Information Statement
Lastly, employers are obligated to provide a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement to employees either before employment commences or at the first available opportunity. The FWIS provides new employees with information about their conditions of employment. Failing to do so is classified as a contravention of the Fair Work Act. Managers and/or employers also have to give every new casual employee a copy of the Casual Employment Information Statement (the CEIS) at the same time. The FWIS can be given to new employees:
- in person
- by mail
- by email
- by emailing a link to this page of our website
- by emailing a link to a copy of the FWIS available on the employer’s intranet
- by fax
- by another method.
As a manager, understanding employee rights and entitlements is a crucial factor that allows for a fairer, more productive working environment. We hope that today’s article has provided you with some valuable insight into your obligations and duty of care as an employer.
Do you have any questions regarding employee rights and entitlements? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.