Protecting employees and customers

Published 27 May 2020 | Updated 23 September 2021

Creating a safe work environment is a legal requirement for employers. Employees and other workers also need to take care of their own and others’ safety.

Our role (the Fair Work Ombudsman) is to give information and advice about rules and responsibilities under Australian workplace laws. For example, information and advice about pay, leave or ending employment.

On this page, find out where you can get the right information and help for any workplace health and safety (WHS) issues.

Wearing masks at work

Workplace health and safety information

Some states and territories have requirements (public health orders) about wearing face masks at work including for certain industries and workplaces. Learn more about public health orders for your state or territory on our List of enforceable government directions during coronavirus page.

Safe Work Australia has guidance about WHS laws during coronavirus. This includes when an employer can direct a worker to wear face masks in the workplace. Check what information is available for your industry at Safe Work Australia – COVID-19 information for workplaces external-icon.png.

Contact your state or territory body

If you have concerns or questions about masks and WHS issues, contact your local regulator. Each state and territory has a WHS body that regulates and investigates breaches of WHS laws:

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Temperature checks at work

Workplace health and safety information

Safe Work Australia has guidance about WHS laws during coronavirus. This includes information about monitoring health in the workplace. Check what information is available for your industry at Safe Work Australia – COVID-19 information for workplaces external-icon.png.

Contact your state or territory body

If you have questions about temperature checks and WHS issues, contact your local regulator. Each state and territory has a WHS body that regulates and investigates breaches of WHS laws:

Privacy information

There may be privacy implications for employers using technology to monitor the health of employees during coronavirus.

Find information about privacy rights at work during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC is the independent national regulator for privacy and freedom of information. Learn more about workplace privacy at OAIC – COVID-19 advice and guidance external-icon.png.

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Protection from discrimination for raising health and safety concerns

Under the Fair Work Act, discrimination happens in the workplace when an employer takes adverse action against an employee or future employee because of particular traits or attributes the employee has. These include the employee’s:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer's responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin.

Adverse action includes doing, threatening or organising any of the following:

  • firing an employee
  • injuring the employee in their employment, eg. not giving an employee legal entitlements such as pay or leave
  • changing an employee's job to their disadvantage
  • treating an employee differently than others
  • not hiring someone
  • offering a potential employee different and unfair terms and conditions for the job compared to other employees.

Employers can’t discriminate against employees for raising health and safety concerns. Similarly, employees can’t be dismissed or injured in their employment because they have a responsibility under a workplace health and safety law, such as to quarantine or self-isolate.

More information:

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