It is against the law for employers to treat their employees or contractors unfairly because they make reasonable requests and/or voice concerns about their employment entitlements or workers' rights. This is known as discrimination on the basis of employment activity.
An employer cannot treat you unfavourably or penalise you if you make a reasonable request about your employment entitlements. Employers cannot do things like:
- cutting your hours or regular overtime
- denying your annual leave
- transferring you to undesirable duties
- not granting you a promotion
- not providing you with access to services and training in the workplace
- terminating your employment.
For example, Jill has been working as a hairdresser for six months and has not received a payslip. She raises the matter with her employer and is told to stop asking questions. A few days later, she is instructed to not attend to customers and is given cleaning duties instead. She believes she has been treated unfavourably because she raised a concern about her entitlements, so she seeks advice from the Commission.
What are reasonable requests and concerns?
Making a reasonable request about your employment entitlements includes asking things like:
- What is my rate of pay? How much leave have I accrued?
- Can I vary my hours to pick up my child from school?
- Do I have an entitlement to maternity leave?
- Am I meant to be paid overtime?
- I’ve heard the company is going under. Will I get my redundancy payout?
When making a reasonable request or communicating your concerns:
- be clear about the request and ensure it is reasonable
- check your contract, employment agreement or payslip for the information in case it is already available
- consider putting your request in writing
- make the request to your employer, manager or designated human resources or payroll officer.
What is an unreasonable request?
Unreasonable requests may include things like:
- requests that are made at an impractical or inappropriate time
- requests that have an unrealistic or excessive demand
- requests that are made in a violent or threatening manner.
For example, Cliff works as machinist for a medium-sized sheet metal fabrication business. Cliff is concerned about the way his overtime has been allocated. He calls his employer at home on Sunday afternoon and asks him for a report of all the overtime allocation and how much other employees have been paid in the last two years. This request may be unreasonable because it was made at an inappropriate time – outside work hours – and asks for private information about other employees.