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

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 starting from the day after you were dismissed 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 Fixing a workplace problem 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:

Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy

If an employee has agreed to start an apprenticeship or traineeship with an employer, it’s important the employee is aware of their general protections at work. These rules still apply for the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) wage subsidy, which provides employers with wage subsidies for new apprentices and trainees.

For example, the following rules continue to apply under the BAC wage subsidy:

  • an employer can’t force or misrepresent to an employee that they need to start an apprenticeship or traineeship in order to stay employed
  • an employer can’t adversely act against an employee (including terminating employment) if they refuse to start an apprenticeship or traineeship.

You can find more information on termination on our Unfair dismissal page.

For more information about the BAC wage subsidy, including eligibility and payment amounts, go to Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements external-icon.png on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

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