Law firm warns employers against refusing workers to rally

AN INDUSTRIAL law firm has warned employers who refuse to allow employees to take leave to attend this month's union rally may be breaking workplace laws.

The information comes after Fair Work Ombudsman said it was investigating allegations of people being involved in unprotected industrial action ahead of the Change the Rules Campaign rallied held across Australia, including Gladstone.

It said employers were entitled, under the Fair Work Act, to deduct four hours' wages from an employee if they took part in industrial action without authorisation, even if they were away from work for a shorter period.

But Maurice Blackburn said under the Fair Work Act, employees have a right not to be discriminated against because of their political opinion.

Maurice Blackburn's national head of employment and industrial law Josh Bornstein said employers could not unreasonably refuse to allow employees to take annual leave.

"The right to protest is a fundamental tenet of a democratic society," Mr Bornstein said.

"If an employer refuses to allow an employee to take leave to attend the rally, it could amount to adverse action under the Fair Work Act."

Mr Bornstein said corporate employers who breached the Fair Work Act could be liable for a fine of up to $63,000 per contravention.

Individuals who breached the Fair Work Act or were involved in contraventions of the Fair Work Act could be liable for fines of up to $12,600 per contravention.

The rallies, part of the ACTU's Change the Rules campaign, are to protest current workplace laws and to call for workers to have more "power" when it came to asking for a pay rise.

The Gladstone rally will be held on October 23 from noon to 1pm at Gladstone Marina.

Rallies will also be held in Melbourne, Rockhampton and Townsville.



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