Unions entering the workplace

Union officials can enter the workplace if the employer agrees for them to enter.

Union officials can also enter the workplace if they have a valid right-of-entry permit issued by the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) and they wish to visit the workplace:

When union officials enter a workplace they can speak with workers only if:

  • the workers are at the workplace and they want to speak to them or
  • there is a suspected breach and the worker is entitled to be represented by the union.

Rules for entering the workplace

There are many rules for when a union official enters a workplace.

Entry permit requirement

When a union official arrives at a workplace, they must show their right-of-entry permit if the employer asks to see it. They also have to show it when they want to access documents.

If the official has a valid permit and has complied with the relevant rules below, an employer must not stop them from entering the workplace. If they do stop the official, they will be in breach of the legislation and can be fined.

To find out more about right-of-entry permits, go to Entry Permits - the Commission external-icon.png.

Notice of the visit

When entering a workplace, a union official must give written notice of at least 24 hours but no more than 14 days before the intended visit, unless the Commission allows otherwise.

What they can do when they enter the workplace

Where there is a suspected breach, union officials can:

  • inspect any work, process or object that relates to the breach
  • interview any person related to the suspected breach, if the person is
    • entitled to be represented by the union and
    • willing to be interviewed
  • meet with employees if the employees are
    • entitled to be represented by the union and
    • willing to meet with the union
  • access records relating to the breach.

Unions can't:

  • ask to see the records of a non-union member, except with the permission from the person or under a Commission order
  • talk with employees during paid work time – discussions have to be during meal and other breaks.

Accessing documents and records

The right-of-entry permit allows the union to inspect and copy any record or document that is directly relevant to the suspected breach where:

  • it is kept on the premises or
  • is accessible from a computer that is kept on the premises.

The records must substantially relate to a member of the union unless the Commission allows otherwise.

The right-of-entry permit must be shown when the union wants to access documents.

Access to meeting rooms for discussions and interview

When an occupier of the premises agrees, union officials can have access to meeting rooms.

If the occupier of the premises doesn’t agree, the union officials can hold discussions and interviews at the place where the worker is normally allowed to take breaks.

Visiting remote workplaces

If a union official is visiting a remote workplace where accommodation and transport aren’t reasonably available, they can ask the employer to make an accommodation and/or transport arrangement with them.

Where the employer and the union official can’t agree on an arrangement, the employer needs to give or arrange accommodation or transport if:

  • it doesn’t cause undue inconvenience for the employer
  • the union official gives a reasonable amount of notice.

The employer can charge a fee for the accommodation or transport. It can’t be more than it cost them.

Rules for entering a textile, clothing or footwear industry workplace

The rules that apply to union’s entering workplaces in the textile, clothing and footwear industry are the same as other workers, with some important differences.

Unlike other union officials, officials representing outworkers can:

  • look into suspected breaches of outworkers terms in an award or registered agreement
  • enter the workplace without:
    • giving advanced notice
    • workers being there
  • talk to workers who aren't union members, if they work on the premises and want to speak to the union official
  • access records of workers who aren’t union members.

Although advanced notice is not required, written notice must be provided before or as soon as possible after entering the premises.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) sections 481 - 483AA and 521A-521D external-icon.png

Need help resolving general protections issues?

For employees:

If you've lost your job, contact the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) first if you think you were sacked because of:

  • discrimination
  • a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable
  • another protected right.

You have 21 days from the day you were sacked to lodge an application with the Commission. Check the information at the Commission website external-icon.png to find out if you can apply for:

  • unfair dismissal external-icon.png (not available if you lost your job because of a genuine Redundancy)
  • a general protections dismissal
  • unlawful termination.

For other general protections issues:

  • consider whether the action taken against you was unlawful after reading the information on this page
  • see our Help resolving workplace issues section for practical advice on:
    • talking to your employer about fixing the problem
    • getting help from us if you still can’t resolve it.

For employers:

Take general protections issues seriously. Speak with your employee to address the problem after reading the information on this page.

We have resources to help you:

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