However you choose to make your way in life, hard work and toil are inevitable if you wish to succeed. Your career is a story and every story worth telling has some trials and tribulations, perils, problems and pitfalls. Disagreements with colleagues, difficult office politics, unnecessarily demanding bosses and working jobs where you’ll be underpaid and / or underappreciated are all formative hurdles. These are the experiences that you’ll have to overcome as you navigate your career. These are the challenges that you’ll meet and defeat and look back upon later on your career with a sense of pride. There are some obstacles, however, that you should never have to face. In fact there is specific legislation in place to protect you from them. The trouble is that many of us (especially at the start of our careers) are unable to recognise when their colleagues’ or bosses’ behavior contravenes our legally protected rights under the National Employment Standards.
Australian workers are protected by both commonwealth and state / territory laws against discrimination on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability under various acts brought into law between 1975 and 2004. Transgender workers are also protected against discrimination by law both inside and outside of the workplace. If you feel that you are being treated unfavourably by your employer on the basis of any of the above, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.
During the course of your career you may find yourself asked to work in unreasonable or unsafe conditions, or work without the appropriate safety apparatus. If this happens, you should know that you have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions without fear of reprisals such as loss of wages or dismissal (more on that shortly). While the responsibility to create and maintain a safe and sanitary workspace is shared by all employees, it is ultimately your employer’s responsibility to ensure that you have the facilities to do your job in safety.
While disputes, disagreements and sometimes even arguments between colleagues are all part of the busy landscape of 21st century business, you are legally protected against workplace harassment. This includes bullying, inappropriate personal comments, others behaving aggressively towards you, pressuring you to behave inappropriately and of course comments and deeds of an inappropriate sexual nature.
In the US, employers can dismiss employees for virtually any reason they see fit. Fortunately, Australians are legally protected against unfair dismissal. You should enlist the aid of unfair dismissal lawyers if you feel that you have been let go without just cause.
Everybody should work hard and do their best in the workplace, but you have the right to a work / life balance and to do your job without risk of exhaustion or excessive stress. Again, unlike their American counterparts (who have no federal law guaranteeing them a meal break or indeed any other kind of break), Australian workers have a legally guaranteed right to a meal break. Your employer should have a registered agreement in place for the provision of meal breaks or shorter ‘crib breaks’.
Whatever trials you encounter in your career, don’t let any of these illegal obstacles negatively impact your professional journey.