Unfair dismissal

An employer can’t pressure you to resign or dismiss you because you have cancer or are caring for a family or household member diagnosed with cancer.

All permanent employees are entitled to receive paid personal leave, which includes sick leave and carer’s leave.

In general it is against the law to dismiss someone for:

  • taking paid personal leave (even if they are away for a long time)
  • taking temporary leave of up to three months in a 12-month period for illness, even if some or all of that leave is unpaid.

If you think you’ve been sacked unfairly, this may be unfair dismissal. You have 21 days from the date of dismissal to lodge a complaint with the Fair Work Commission.

You must also meet some other conditions to be eligible to lodge an unfair dismissal claim, including a minimum length of service – see www.fwc.gov.au for more details.


Resolving a workplace issue

  • First try talking with your employer. Workplaces generally have guidelines about how to deal with complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying.
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman provides information about workplace rights and how to resolve workplace issues at fairwork.gov.au.
  • Keep notes about the behaviour, including dates. This will help you remember everything that has happened so you can explain it later.
  • Most complaints are resolved through mediation or conciliation. If this doesn’t work, you may go to an administrative tribunal.
  • If you reasonably believe you’ve been bullied, you can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying.
  • If you think you’re being discriminated against, you can lodge a complaint with the discrimination agency in your state or territory, the Australian Human Rights Commission, or the Fair Work Ombudsman. Contact these organisations or seek legal advice to see which one is most appropriate for your individual circumstances before you lodge a complaint.
  • If you have been dismissed from your job or experienced other disadvantage due to your cancer diagnosis, you may be able to lodge an unfair dismissal or adverse action application with the Fair Work Commission. You must lodge claims within 21 days of being dismissed.
  • If you have any questions, call Cancer Council 13 11 20. We can send you more information and may be able to connect you with our legal, financial and workplace referral services.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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