Employment law is an ever-evolving field that has major implications for employers and employees. Whether you are a boss, a subordinate or a working on a sub-contract basis, it is important to understand both when and how to seek out help from a legal professional.
From unfair dismissal to workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment, an employee can file a legal claim for a wide variety of different circumstances. Throughout this article, we will explore each of these areas and offer a quick overview. Keep reading to find out more.
Major Areas of Concern
While we won’t be able to cover every single aspect of employment law, this article will delve into some of the major areas that workers and their employers must be aware of.
Workplace bullying is a common problem prevalent in a wide variety of industries, including education, healthcare, politics and the not-for profit sector. Working bullying is defined as unreasonable behaviour directed at an employee. Specifically, this relates to actions that occurs on a regular basis that create health and safety risks for the worker.
So, in this instance – what exactly are your options?
In order to file a bullying order, the behaviour in question must have occurred more than once. If this is the case, you can file an official order through the Fair Work Commission. Employment lawyers will be able to provide guidance and assistance with any submissions made.
This is a common issue that falls directly under the scope of employment law. In Australia, the Fair Work Act allows employees on the end of an unfair dismissal to file a claim. It is encouraged that individuals file/lodge their own claims. However, this is generally best advised for instances that involve smaller amounts of compensation.
For larger claims, we recommend that you reach out to experienced employment lawyers. This professional assistance is particularly important if the employer has their own lawyers or HR Departments. An employment lawyer will also be able to provide advice as to whether you have grounds for a case.
Underpayments are a major point of contention in the modern workplace. In particular, this issue has become even more prevalent since the rise of the gig economy and other unregulated industries.
Filing a claim for worker underpayment can be done on both an individual and collective basis. Claims are generally assessed and ruled on by the Fair Work Ombudsman within a 6 month window. While engaging a lawyer comes with greater expenses, this can fast track the process and give the employee the best chance to reach a resolution.
Instances of workplace harassment can take place on four levels
Regardless of its form, harassment can be very traumatising to the individual on the receiving end. For matters concern physical violence or unwanted sexual advances, this harassment may even amount to an assault.
In Australia, there are Acts that explicitly outline the various protections against discrimination in the workplace. These guidelines and laws form the basis of any subsequent legal action. Both the accuser and accused are strongly advised to seek out legal advice from employment lawyers for any matters regarding workplace harassment.
As more and more companies embrace sub-contractor arrangements, this area has become a particular point of contention and confusion for modern workers. This is also complicated by eligibility requirements – specifically the ability to establish that you are an employee under law.
Other common issues relates the distinction between genuine and sham-contracting. If you find yourself in this situation, the best course of action is to speak with experienced employment lawyers.
In the context of employment and places of work, discrimination can occur on a wide variety of levels. Let’s explore each of the individual classifications in further detail.
Discrimination Because of Your Gender
In Australia, discrimination on grounds of gender identity is unlawful and can have major legal implications. Unfortunately, gender discrimination remains prevalent in Australian workplaces and occurs in a wide variety of different industries. This form of discrimination also affects a disproportionate percentage of females as compared to males.
Gender identity discrimination also falls under the spectrum of employment law, including individuals that identify as intersex or transexual.
Discrimination Because of Your Age
An employee may experience age based discrimination for being younger or older than their colleague/colleagues. However, older age groups remain the most targeted group for this form of discriminatory behaviour. Specifically, this involves workers aged 45 and above.
As outlined by the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth), two major forms of age discrimination exist – direct and indirect. One of its most common forms include termination/firing on the basis of the employee’s age. Once a claim is made, the onus falls on the employer to prove that aged-based discrimination has not occurred.
Discrimination Because of Your Pregnancy
Under Australian law, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is unlawful. Pregnancy related discrimination may involve a refusal to approve paternity leave or a failure to accommodate their needs during or following pregnancy. This can manifest itself in the form of forced resignation or unpaid leave.
Some high-profile pregnancy discrimination cases are listed on the Fair Work Commission website.
Discrimination Because of an Adverse Action
In the context of employment law, an adverse action relates to a harmful action that an employer either takes or threatens to take. As noted by the FWC (Fair Work Commission), adverse actions may also originate from contractors, industrial associations or other employees.
A few examples of this include
- Termination or refusal to affirm a contract
- Demotions or dismissal
- Causing harm or injury in the workplace
Get Practical Advice from Employment Lawyers
Whether you are lodging a claim as an employee or facing a dispute as an employer, we recommend that you contact employment lawyers as soon as possible. A discussion with an employment law expert will provide clarity as to where you sit and the options available moving forward.