Frequently Asked Questions

My employer says I can’t join the union, is that true? Do I have to tell my employer if I join?

No. Every Australian worker — including if you are a casual worker — has the right to join a union. Your right to join a union is protected under the General Protections provisions of the Fair Work Act and under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act. Your membership is between you and your union. You are under no obligation to disclose this to anyone, including your employer.

 I’m casual, what rights do I have?

The rights of casual employees are limited, but casuals do have many of the same rights as permanent workers, including a right to be a union member. Casuals should receive a “loading” or higher pay rate to compensate for the lack of paid holiday or sick leave. In addition they must also receive superannuation and may be entitled to long service leave. Unions continually campaign to improve casual workers’ rights especially as more and more workers are finding they are only being offered jobs as casuals. If you are a casual your employer is not required to offer you regular work or to pay you when they have no work for you. However the employer may be obliged to pay you for a minimum number of hours if you are sent home before the end of your rostered shift.


Can apprentices join the union?

Yes. Many unions have significantly reduced fees for apprentices as well as offering specialised advice and assistance. Employers have a range of obligations when employing apprentices and your union can discuss these with you.


 What is my employer’s responsibility in relation to occupational health and safety?

Employers* have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers they engage, as well as that of other persons. The must provide safe equipment, work systems , provide adequate welfare facilities (like toilets and drinking water) and provide information, instruction and training so that the job can be done safely. Work conditions also have to be monitored and employers must also consult with workers on issues including hazard identification. Failure to meet Work Health and Safety responsibilities can result in a range of penalties. 


I was hurt at work. What should I do?

If you have been hurt at work, you must inform your manager and insist on documentation of the incident. Every workplace is required to have an “incident book” where accidents and injuries are documented. Your health and safety representative (if you have one), could also be notified. If you believe you are at risk of injury or illness, contact your union and local workers’ compensation authority or ask the Australian Unions Helpline if you have any concerns.

People are being bullied at my workplace.

Anything that makes your workplace unsafe or unhealthy is a health and safety issue and every worker has the right to a safe workplace. People can be injured at work in less obvious ways than things like falls or cuts. Bullying is a very important issue and can lead to serious problems. Ask your union or the Australian Unions helpline for advice on bullying in your workplace.

My employer sacked me and I think it’s unfair. What can I do?

Your rights will depend on many factors including how long you have worked with this employer and whether you were employed in a permanent or casual role. The important thing is to seek advice as soon as possible because there are time limits on making an unfair dismissal claim. Ask your union or the Australian Unions Helpline if you need advice.

I told my employer I was pregnant and my shifts have been cut. What can I do?

Speak to your manager about the reasons for cutting your shifts. An employer who discriminates against a woman because she is pregnant is breaking the law. Seek advice from your union or the relevant anti-discrimination authority if you believe that you are being discriminated against for family reasons. The Australian Unions Helpline can also help.


I think I am being underpaid. What can I do?

Your employer cannot pay you less than the amount relevant to your age and classification set down in the award or agreement which applies to you.

In addition to the minimum rate of pay, you may be entitled to: an extra loading if you are a casual worker; penalty rates for working evenings, on weekends or on holidays; leave loading; shift allowances; working additional hours; redundancy; incentive payments; uniform and a range of other allowances and payments. 

Where to make an unpaid wages claim can depend on a couple of different factors (for example what State you’re working in.) Your union will be able to advise you or if you’re not a member call the Australian Unions hotline on 1300 486 466 for some advice. 


Date Published: 05/06/2013 Category: Opinion

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