This topic can be informative to those who are in the workplace with less than the required minimum period of employment for regular or permanent employee or as a casual or an independent contractor.
This has something to do with conditions in the workplace environment in which potential risk or harm can occur. The workers have a protected right to be free from harm or violence or risk. The workers are entitled to health and safety standards.
This is an actual case.
Maryjane (not her real name) is a Registered Nurse and was hired recently by General Practitioners to work as Nurse Coordinator and assist patients in seeing doctors. She is a qualified nurse with about 10 years of experience. She has less than one month before she gets her permanent status.
One day, Maryjane was assisting a mentally impaired patient who wanted to see a doctor. The patient seemed to be misbehaving and was aggressive toward her. Maryjane became frightened and has asked a colleague to stay behind to accompany her. In fact, Maryjane told her Practice Manager to provide her with a support person while she was in the room with the patient. However, no help was extended to the nurse and she was left alone with the aggressive patient all the while.
Maryjane later decided not to continue her job as she was afraid the same incident might happen again. She resigned with a heavy heart although she did not specify why she had to leave. She went to her lawyer and told her story.
The lawyer decided to write the employer a two-page letter showing Maryjane’s disappointment and brought up the need for a health and safety policy. The employer did not respond. Maryjane was not provided with her salary for two weeks claiming that her resignation was uncalled for and under the contract she had to give notice before leaving her employment.
Before 21 days has lapsed since she resigned, Maryjane initiated an application under section 365 of the Fair Work Act (2009) (‘the Act’) or general protection dispute. She struggled to fill the application since she did not know the law and the rules that apply to the adverse action claim. Eventually, she managed to file it on time.
Maryjane then engaged her lawyer and told about the conciliation meeting to be held soon. The employer responded to the application and claimed no liability to it. The Human Resource Manager said that Maryjane resigned and the company should have no responsibility.
The employer was so aggressive and sure of their defence that they did not agree to any adjournment. They argued that Maryjane’s resignation was all on her own accord as shown by her letter of resignation and other supporting evidence.
The day before the hearing, Maryjane amended her application to include all the reasons for taking the action – the evidence of correspondence that led to Maryjane’s resignation over the health and safety issue. During the conciliation hearing, Maryjane with her lawyer re-visited the incident where there was a lack of health and safety measure in place, her complaint unattended, and claims for her compensation or unpaid salary or wages all through the time she has not worked.
In the end, the employer settled.