Coercion is the act of organising or taking action, or threatening to organise or take action against another person with intent to coerce the person, or a third person to do something they don’t want to do. Coercion interferes with a person’s freedom of choice.

Certain kinds of coercion are unlawful under the provisions of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act) and the general protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).

What is a workplace right?

Workplace rights are protections that are available to persons in the workplace. The protections come from workplace laws. An employee has a workplace right if they are:

  • entitled to the benefit of a workplace law or workplace instrument (such as an award or agreement)
  • able to participate in a process or proceedings under a workplace law or workplace instrument
  • able to make a complaint or enquiry in relation to their employment.

Coercion and workplace rights

It's unlawful for an employer, fellow employees or a union to coerce an employee to exercise, or not exercise, their workplace rights.

Taking away a workplace right

An employer must not threaten or take any action with the intent of coercing an employee to exercise or not exercise a workplace right, or to do so in a particular way.

For example, if an employee refuses to vote for or against an enterprise agreement, the employer must not:

  • threaten to sack the employee
  • threaten to demote the employee or change their roster.

Other acts of unlawful coercion

It is unlawful for a person to organise or take action, or threaten to organise or take action against another person with the intent to coerce that person to:

  • make, vary or terminate an enterprise agreement
  • take part in industrial action
  • employ or not employ a building employee
  • engage or not engage a building contractor
  • allocate or not allocate certain duties or responsibilities to a particular building employee or building contractor
  • designate a building employee or contractor as having, or not having, particular duties or responsibilities
  • nominate a particular superannuation fund.


Need more information?

For further information, advice or assistance please contact the ABCC at 1800 003 338 or enquiry [at]