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Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), there are a number of protections in place for both Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and businesses.
Protections for HSRs
A person or a business cannot discriminate or take other negative steps against a person because of their involvement in workplace health and safety.
Under HSWA, no one is allowed to pressure or mislead people around their roles, powers or entitlements.
HSWA protects a worker's involvement in workplace health and safety when:
- raising an issue or concern about health and safety
- ceasing work because it is believed to be unsafe or unhealthy
- taking part in resolving a health and safety issue
- taking action to seek compliance
- acting as an HSR, a member of a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), or in another role under HSWA
- using the lawful powers as an HSR or member of an HSC, for example directing a worker to cease unsafe work.
Examples of negative steps
Actions which could be considered negative steps include doing, or threatening to do, any of the following:
- dismissing or refusing the employment of a worker or contractor
- terminating or refusing to enter an agreement with a worker or contractor
- refusing to offer a worker the same work conditions available to similar workers (for example, terms of employment, training or promotion)
- treating a worker differently to similar workers in a way that negatively impacts their employment, job performance or satisfaction.
It is also against the law if anyone:
- seeks to threaten a person so that they use (or don’t use) a power under HSWA
- seeks to threaten a worker so that they stop being an HSR or member of an HSC
- deliberately tells a worker false or misleading information about HSWA, including:
- their rights
- ability to start a process and participate in a process, or
- make a complaint.
If you have any concerns, you can talk to us in confidence.
Protections for businesses
HSWA has checks and balances against improper use of HSR powers, such as:
- limiting the powers to the particular work group the HSR represents
- confining the role to health and safety purposes
- setting some specific limits (for example, access to workers’ personal information)
- involving WorkSafe to help resolve issues, remove an HSR who is acting improperly, or remove a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).