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Employment activity

Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work. This includes being able to make requests and raise concerns about your entitlements and rights. It is against the law for your employer to treat you unfairly or bully you because you asked about your entitlements at work.

A young bakery worker in an apron places a bread roll into a bag.

The Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 came into effect on 1 July 2021 and made amendments to Part 4 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the Act) in response to the Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work. The amendments ensure that contract workers who are protected under the Act are included in the definition of employment activity.

What is employment activity discrimination?

Employment activity discrimination is when your employer treats you unfairly because you asked a question or raised a concern about your entitlements or rights at work.

Your employment entitlements and worker’s rights relate to what is in your work contract, agreement, award or law. They include things like pay rates and annual leave.

The law protects employees and contract workers from being treated unfairly because they made a reasonable request about their employment entitlements. It does not apply to job applicants.

Examples of employment activity discrimination

  • A sales attendant having their shifts cut down after asking about weekend penalty rates.
  • An accountant being dismissed after asking about the parental leave they were entitled to.
  • A factory worker being made redundant after complaining about unsafe work practices.
  • A hairdresser being demoted to cleaning duties after requesting a weekly payslip.

What is a reasonable request?

Making a reasonable request includes asking things like:

  • what is my rate of pay? How much leave have I collected?
  • can I adjust my hours to pick up my child from school?
  • am I entitled to parental leave?
  • am I meant to be paid overtime?
  • I’ve heard the company is going under. Will I get my redundancy payout?

A request may be unreasonable when it is:

  • made at an inappropriate or impractical time (such as making a request by calling your employer at home outside of work hours)
  • excessive or unrealistic (such as asking about the pay rates of other employees and contract workers)
  • made in a violent or threatening manner.

Tips for making a request

When trying to find out about your entitlements or rights:

  • first check your contract, employment agreement or payslip for the information in case it is already available
  • consider putting your request in writing
  • ensure your request is clearly explained and outlined
  • make the request to your employer, manager, or human resources / payroll officer.

How does the law protect me?

While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act, employers have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.

Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.

To ensure they are complying with the positive duty, organisations should also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.

The positive duty applies to employers of all sizes, regardless of whether they are a major company or a small cafe, and covers all types of workers:

  • full-time, part-time and casual employees
  • agents and contract workers
  • trainees and apprentices.

It applies to all stages of employment, including:

It is also against the law to victimise a person, which means treat them badly or unfairly, because they have made a complaint about discrimination, sexual harassment or vilification, or have helped someone else to make a complaint.

You can make a complaint

Get help from us.

You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:

If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you. Find out how we help people resolve complaints.

We can also give you information about your rights.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

There are some exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act that mean it’s not against the law to discriminate in particular circumstances. For example, discrimination is not against the law if there is a real risk to someone’s health, safety or property.

Find out more about exceptions.

My human rights under the Charter

Every Victorian has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.

The Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities must always consider Charter rights, including the right to equality, when they create laws, develop policies and deliver their services.

Find out more about your human rights under the Charter and what to do if you think they have been breached.

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.