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Any worker can be dismissed if their work performance is unsatisfactory or if the employer has genuine financial and operational reasons.

However, it is against the law to dismiss someone or select them for redundancy because of a personal characteristic covered by the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and federal anti-discrimination laws.

For example, you cannot retire someone, threaten to retire them or do anything to make them retire because they have reached a certain age. It is also against the law to dismiss an employee because of an injury.

Managing underperformance, misconduct, redundancies and dismissal can be stressful for all concerned. Employers need to know their rights and responsibilities, as well as best practice guidelines, to manage risk and achieve the best possible outcome.

Tips to avoid discrimination

  • Only dismiss an employee for poor work performance or serious misbehaviour.
  • Document unsatisfactory work performance and discuss it with the employee, including the steps they can take to address the issue.
  • Where possible, try to accommodate reasonable requests for workplace adjustments or flexible work

Related resources

Download a Best Practice Guide on Managing Underperformance from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Small business owners should check the requirements of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code at the Fair Work Australia website. 

The Commission also offers training for employers and has a range of publications and resources on discrimination and the law.

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