Being able to make a complaint or inquiry about your employment is a workplace right!

Published on: Apr 24 2017

"I want to make a complaint about my working conditions but….

I am scared about what will happen to me and my job if I do.”

“Last time someone complained, things got much worse out on the floor and now we don’t think it is worth speaking up.”

 “…they asked me to step inside the office and close the door because they needed to have to have a 'little talk’.  There were three managers sitting across from me.  I felt intimidated and thought that I was going to lose my job, I asked if I was in trouble and should I have someone in with me, the Store Manager said there was really no need as ‘they just wanted to have a chat’.  It was not just a chat, I felt that the unfair line of questioning was not leaving me room to answer properly, I felt outnumbered and unsupported and backed into a corner."


We hear statements like these by our members every day!  Please equip yourself with your workplace rights.  We are here to assist you in knowing what your rights and entitlements are and also by supporting you in applying them in your workplace, without the fear of adverse action.


Every worker in Australia has the right to attend work in a safe working environment and be treated and paid fairly.  However, there are rights and responsibilities for both worker and employer.


Employers do have the right to establish and set reasonable duties, expectations and decisions around performance, disciplinary action and can direct and control the way work is carried out.  They have the responsibility to actively manage in a ‘reasonable’ way and provide a safe working environment.  


Employees do have the right to make a complaint or an inquiry about their working conditions.  If you are unsure about how to make a complaint in your workplace, ask your delegate, refer to the grievance procedure referenced in your Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which may be found on our website or call our office and speak to our Information Officer for guidance around the procedure. 


As well as national laws that protect you at work, most employers have clear guidelines and policies that outline an expected Code of Conduct and Respectful Workplace Behaviour for their staff.  These policies are usually handed out at your induction when you start your employment, your employer would have asked you to sign and agree to these policies but you may not have been given or kept a copy.  If it has been a while since you have reviewed your Code of Conduct or you are unsure about yours, ask your employer for a copy so that you are familiar with what is expected.  

Please remember that these expectations extend to all staff members including  management

What are ‘workplace rights’?

The term ‘workplace right’ is broadly defined under the Fair Work Act 2009, and exists where a person:

  • is entitled to a benefit or has a role or responsibility under a workplace law, workplace instrument (such as an award or agreement) or an order made by an industrial body;
  • is able to initiate or participate in a process or proceedings under a workplace law or workplace instrument;
  • has the capacity under a workplace law to make a complaint or inquiry:
  • to a person or body to seek compliance with that workplace law or workplace instrument
  • If the person is an employee - in relation to their employment.

Fear of speaking up when something is not right at work is one of the main barriers to issues being left unresolved in the workplace. 

What is adverse action and what do I do if I think it is happening at work?

What does adverse action look like?

**A person (such as an employer), must not take any 'adverse action' against another person (such as an employee), because that person has a workplace right, has exercised a workplace right or proposes to exercise that workplace right.

Adverse actions that can be taken against an employee or potential employee might include:

  • dismissing them
  • not giving them their legal entitlements
  • changing their job to their disadvantage
  • treating them differently than others
  • not hiring them
  • being offered different (and unfair) terms and conditions, compared to other employees.

**as outlined by the Fair Work Commission 

Last issue our Assistant Secretary wrote an excellent article that discussed the importance of collectively standing up and actively speaking out in workplaces and communities where there is injustice.  He encouraged us all to find the “resilience to stand up against unfairness…” especially in this current global political climate.

It is crucial that as SDA members, you know that you are protected for exercising your lawful rights that have been fought for and won by previous members who spoke up about your employment and in doing so, you will not suffer in the workplace for using your voice.  How are we going to be active players having a say in our uncertain political world if we don’t feel that we can be courageous at work and exercise our own basic workplace entitlements? Please find the courage to act.  Your union delegates and officials are here to help.

In a nutshell:

  1.  You have the lawful RIGHT to complain or inquire about your working conditions stated in your enterprise bargaining agreement or award. 
  2.  You have the lawful RIGHT to make this complaint without victimisation taking place.
  3.  If you feel that you are being treated adversely because you have raised a lawful complaint or inquiry please contact your union delegate or our office straight away!  

We CAN act and ensure that you are protected under these laws!  That is why the SDA is here and that is what you pay your union membership fees for!

**Helpful tip to make our job easier in helping you:

Please take notes of the conversations you have with your managers around issues you are having.  It helps us greatly to start with as much evidence as possible to help you getting the best outcome.  Make sure you include details such as the date, time, where the conversation took place, who was present, who was a witness or overheard the conversation.  Make note of what was said ‘exactly to the best of your knowledge’ and what was the outcome of the conversation. We don’t need a ‘War and Peace’ just keep the notes to ‘facts only’.









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