What are 3 basic rights of employees?
The first basic right of all employees is a right to be protected from discrimination. Discrimination protection is limited to certain protected characteristics, such as:
- Responsibility to care for children
- Medical condition or disability
- Country of birth
- Pregnancy or potential pregnancy
- Sexual orientation
- Political opinion
- Religious beliefs
Employees also have the right to be paid a minimum wage
The minimum rate of pay depends on the employee’s age. If the employee is under 21, generally speaking, they get paid less. If an employee is 21 or over, they will be entitled to the full adult rate.
Another factor which influences pay in Australia is whether the employee is covered by a modern award or not. There are over 120 modern awards in Australia (in the national system) which apply to different industries. So for example, there is an award which governs plumbers, nurses, teachers, electricians, construction workers, etc.
Not every occupation has an award but a significant number do. The purpose of the modern award is to protect more vulnerable employees.
The award will set out the minimum rate of pay for different positions and the level of experience of the employee. The awards will also provide other benefits such as overtime pay if the employee works past their normal hours or penalty rates if the employee works on weekends or night shifts.
The right to a safe workplace
One of the most fundamental rights in Australia for workers is the right to be safe at work. The employer has a duty of care towards the employee to ensure they provide a safe workplace.
The obligation to provide a safe workplace includes obviously making sure the employee is not exposed to danger. The employee will be protected for physical danger and psychological danger. Physical danger includes injuries such as from machinery or accidents on construction sites or slips. Psychological injury includes the duty to ensure the employee does not suffer any psychological illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression.
If an employee is injured at work, they are entitled to access the Workers’ Compensation Scheme which will compensate the employee fairly for their injury.
If an employer fails to provide a safe workplace environment, WorkSafe also has the power to prosecute the employer and even commence criminal charges.
How are employees’ rights protected by law?
Employees’ rights are protected by key pieces of law such as the Fair Work Act 2009, Workers’ Compensation Legislation, Occupation Health and Safety Law and other ancillary laws.
Workers’ rights are also protected by key government departments enforcing the law. The Fair Work Ombudsman is the workplace regulator which is responsible for ensuring businesses and individuals comply with their workplace obligations. WorkSafe, is responsible for ensuring their businesses provide a safe place of work. The Fair Work Commission and the courts are the bodies which are in place to make decisions on whether the law has been broken or not, after a claim has been commenced. The Fair Work Commission is an independent judicial body (the same way that courts are).
Can you sue your employer for emotional distress?
If you suffer emotional distress, there are several ways which you could make a claim.
Firstly, if you suffered a psychological injury arising from the performance of your job, then you could be entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim. You do not specifically sue your employer but the employer’s insurer is responsible for assessing the claim and making the appropriate payments should the claim be justified.
Secondly, if your employer has breached the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act, or the unlawful termination provisions, then you could be entitled to general damages which will allow you to claim payment for emotional distress.
If your employer does something which could give rise to a tort claim, such as a breach of duty of care, the intentional infliction of psychological harm, assault, then you could be entitled to emotional distress damages as well.
However, if your employer simply dismisses you and you lodge an unfair dismissal claim, you will not be entitled to seek emotional distress compensation (as that claim is only limited to financial compensation only).
What are the 5 human rights in the workplace?
In my view, these are the key fundamental rights of all employees in the workplace.
- The right to be protected from discrimination and harassment.
- The right to have a safe workplace that is free from the risk of harm to the employee.
- The right to be paid fairly for work performed.
- The right to decide whether you join a union or not.
- The right to be protected from retaliation if the employee exercises her workplace right, such as making a complaint about their employment, requesting information about their employment or taking employee benefit they are entitled to, such as annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, etc.