Union membership

A union is a body that represents the interests of workers in a particular industry or occupation.

Membership of a union

All employees and independent contractors are free to choose to join or not join a union.

It's illegal for a person to pressure another person about their choice. For example:

  • an employer can't pressure an employee
  • a business can't pressure an independent contractor working with them.

It’s also illegal to take or threaten to take adverse action against a person for:

  • being or not being a union member, or
  • taking part or not taking part in industrial activity.

An adverse action against a person includes:

  • dismissing them
  • changing their role to put them in a worse position
  • changing their terms and conditions to put them in a worse position.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.346(a), 348, 350 and 772 external-icon.png

Related information

Resolving general protections issues

For employees:

Contact the Fair Work Commission (FWC) first if If you've lost your job and you think you were fired because of:

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

You have 21 days starting from the day after you were dismissed to lodge an application with the FWC. Check the information at the FWC 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 Fixing a workplace problem section for practical advice on:

  • talking to your employer about fixing a workplace problem
  • getting help from us if you still can’t resolve the problem.

For employers:

Take general protections issues seriously. After you’ve read the information on this page, speak with your employee to address the problem.

We have resources to help you:

Help for small business