General protections applications at the Fair Work Commission

General protections applications at the Fair Work Commission

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, you can lodge an application at the Fair Work Commission to protect you from discrimination at work. You can also lodge an application to the Fair Work Commission to protect your workplace rights and industrial activities.

This is called a ‘general protections application’.

You may also have the option of making a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. See Complaints at the human rights commissions.

It is important to carefully consider your legal options before lodging your complaint. You should therefore get legal advice before you make an application.

What is a general protections application?

A general protections application states that your employer has taken adverse action against you by discriminating against you on the basis of a protected attribute.

Adverse action includes:

  • dismissing you from your job
  • discriminating against you when compared to other employees
  • treating you unfairly or disadvantaging you in your employment.

A protected attribute under the Fair Work Act includes: race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, pregnancy, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

You may also make claims against a:

  • previous employer if you have been dismissed from work
  • prospective employer if you were treated unfairly when applying for a job.

There are strict time frames for making a general protections application to Fair Work Commission. You have 21 days to lodge an application after the adverse action has occurred if it involves ending your employment.

If you want to complain about adverse action that occurred during your employment and did not involve ending your employment, then you have six years to lodge a general protections application with the Fair Work Commission.

Making an application

You can download the General Protections Application Form from the Fair Work Commission website. This is also called a ‘F8’ form. You can email, fax or electronically lodge your form with the Fair Work Commission.

The form will prompt you to fill in details of the adverse action that happened because of your protected attribute. You should read the Fair Work Commission's information about general protections before you lodge your application to make sure you fill in the form correctly.

You may wish to get legal advice to help draft your application.

There is a fee of $69.60 to lodge a general protections application, although this can be waived in some cases.

Investigation of general protection applications

Once the Fair Work Commission has received your general protections application, it will determine whether it was made in time and whether it has power to conciliate your complaint.

If your application relates to a dismissal from work, your employer has to attend conciliation and the Fair Work Commission must convene a conference.

If your application relates to a discriminatory action taken by your employer, but you are still employed, then the Fair Work Commission will convene a conciliation conference and request that the parties attend. However, in this case, your employer may choose not to attend.

Conciliation conferences

Your application will be listed for a conciliation conference with an impartial conciliator who is a member of the Fair Work Commission. Often these conferences are held by telephone. Fair Work Commission’s website has more information about the process for general protections disputes.

Conciliation conferences are designed to be flexible and informal. The conference is not a public hearing and you do not have to prove your complaint. You do not have to be legally represented.

Outcomes of conciliation can vary and might include:

  • an apology
  • financial compensation
  • a job reference or reinstatement
  • access to a previously denied job opportunity or service.

The Fair Work Commission does not have the power to make orders or award compensation. The aim of the conference is to help the parties reach a resolution.

If your complaint does not resolve at conciliation, the Fair Work Commission will close the complaint and issue a certificate under section 369 of the Fair Work Act stating that reasonable attempts have been made to conciliate the complaint but they were not successful.

If you want to pursue your complaint to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court, you must lodge your application to either court within 14 days from the date of this certificate being issued. Find out more about what to do if conciliation does not work.

How long will it take?

The Fair Work Commission usually processes applications and lists matters for conciliation within a few weeks. If a complaint raises urgent issues, the commission will prioritise the complaint. For example, if a person is still employed and the complaint needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to enable them to get back to work from sick leave.

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