E-Alert: Building Code 2013 - Freedom of Association

The Building Code encourages fair, cooperative, productive and lawful workplace relations on building sites. It sets out the Australian Government’s expected standards for building contractors and building industry participants involved in Commonwealth funded construction projects.

Section 15 of the Building Code 2013 relates to Freedom of Association.  This section states that:


A building contractor or building industry participant must protect freedom of association by adopting policies that:
(a) are consistent with applicable law; and
(b) ensure that persons are:
      (i) free to become, or not become, members of industrial associations; and
     (ii) free to be represented, or not represented, by industrial associations; and
    (iii) free to participate, or not participate, in lawful industrial activities.


Section 15(2) of the Building Code then sets out a non-exhaustive list of examples of conduct that may breach the freedom of association provisions of the Building Code.

Head contractors who are required to comply with the Building Code must adopt policies to protect freedom of association, including ensuring people are free to become, or not become members of an industrial association.

FWBC expects contractors to ensure this requirement is met by, for example, reinforcing the Building Code's freedom of association requirements at inductions and toolbox meetings, ensuring all staff are adequately trained in freedom of association and by monitoring sites sufficiently to prevent opportunities for freedom of association breaches. 

Who can conduct site inductions?

When a new employee is inducted onto site, they have not yet commenced work and are particularly vulnerable to any pressure to join or not join an industrial association or have their union membership details checked by employers, site representatives or shop stewards.

The FWBC considers that allowing a union representative/shop steward to meet with inductees or conduct inductions without supervision by site management is not consistent with the requirements of section 15 of the Building Code. Site inductions should be conducted by or supervised by site management.

For further information on the Building Code and how it affects your site, contact the FWBC hotline on 1800 003 338 or email enquiry [at] fwbc.gov.au.