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Heard Island and McDonald Islands

Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Heard Island and McDonald Islands


Navigating the complexities of employment termination in Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) is crucial due to the lack of specific labor laws in this territory. The regulations rely heavily on the environmental legislation as guidance.

Lawful Grounds for Dismissal

The Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987 (HIMI), the primary piece of legislation for HIMI, does not explicitly address employment termination details. However, inferences can be made to understand potentially lawful grounds for dismissal:

  • Serious Misconduct: Acts that pose a threat to safety or breaches of the Environment Protection Ordinance could be grounds for immediate dismissal.
  • Performance Issues: If an employee persistently underperforms or cannot fulfill their duties despite warnings and support, termination may be a possibility.

Notice Requirements

While there are no explicit notice periods legally mandated in HIMI, it's recommended to align with principles of fairness. Providing reasonable notice to the employee before termination is advisable, depending on the nature of the role and the grounds for dismissal.

Severance Pay

The HIMI legislation offers no guidance on severance pay entitlements. However, offering severance pay depending on the employee's length of service and circumstances surrounding termination could be considered a best practice.

Important Considerations

  • Employment Contracts: Individual employment agreements play a vital role. Ensure employment contracts clearly outline termination procedures, notice periods, and potential severance entitlements.


Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI), as an external territory of Australia, are governed by Australian anti-discrimination laws. These laws offer robust protection against discrimination in various aspects of life.

Protected Characteristics

Australian anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the following grounds:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Intersex status
  • Family or carer responsibilities
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Social origin
  • Marital or relationship status

Redress Mechanisms

Employees in HIMI who believe they have faced discrimination have several avenues for seeking resolution:

  • Internal Complaint Procedures: Employers should have an internal grievance mechanism for addressing discrimination complaints.
  • Australian Human Rights Commission: The Commission investigates and conciliates discrimination complaints. It can provide mediation and refer unresolved matters to the courts.
  • Fair Work Commission: Can address discrimination complaints in the context of unfair dismissal.
  • Federal Courts: Employees can pursue legal action in the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for discrimination breaches.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in HIMI have a fundamental duty to prevent discrimination and harassment. This includes:

  • Developing Policies: Implementing clear anti-discrimination and harassment policies outlining unacceptable behaviors and complaint procedures.
  • Training: Providing employees with education on anti-discrimination law and fostering a respectful culture.
  • Prompt Response to Complaints: Taking all complaints seriously and investigating them thoroughly and fairly.

Key Legislation:

Australian anti-discrimination legislation is extensive and includes the following acts:

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Fair Work Act 2009

Working conditions

Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) present unique challenges due to their remote location and harsh environment. While no specific regulations solely govern HIMI, Australian workplace standards offer a strong framework for ensuring employee well-being.

Key Considerations

The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes baseline standards for working conditions in Australia, and by extension, HIMI. While some exemptions may exist for remote locations, it provides a strong foundation for fair treatment of employees.

Work Hours

The Fair Work Act sets a maximum of 38 ordinary hours per week, with some variations depending on the award or agreement applicable to the specific role. Employees may be required to work reasonable overtime hours beyond the ordinary hours, but they must be appropriately compensated. The Act mandates a minimum 10-minute rest break every hour and a minimum 30-minute meal break after no more than five hours of work. Employees deserve reasonable notice of their work schedules to enable a healthy work-life balance.

Ergonomic Requirements

Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation requires employers to provide a safe work environment. This includes ensuring workstations are ergonomically designed to minimize the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Additional Considerations for HIMI

The isolated nature of HIMI necessitates planning for extended work periods and limited social interaction. Employers should factor in these unique circumstances when establishing work schedules and ensure staff well-being is prioritized. The sub-Antarctic climate presents physical challenges. Employers must provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and implement safe work practices to minimize exposure to extreme weather conditions.

Health and safety

Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) prioritize environmental protection due to their unique ecosystem. While there aren't standalone occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations, employer obligations and employee rights are addressed in environmental legislation.

Employer Obligations

Employers in HIMI have a duty to provide a safe working environment under the Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987 (HIMI). This includes:

  • Risk Management: Identifying workplace hazards and implementing control measures to minimize risks.
  • Training and Information: Providing employees with adequate training on health and safety procedures specific to their roles and the HIMI environment.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Developing and maintaining emergency response plans for accidents and environmental incidents.
  • Incident Reporting: Implementing a system for reporting work-related injuries and incidents.

Employee Rights

The HIMI legislation doesn't explicitly outline employee rights, but it can be inferred from the employer obligations. Employees can likely expect:

  • A safe work environment free from foreseeable risks.
  • Proper training on health and safety protocols.
  • Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when necessary.
  • The right to refuse unsafe work practices.


The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations in HIMI, including those pertaining to workplace safety.

The AAD can conduct inspections and issue directives to ensure employers are compliant.

Note: Since HIMI regulations are environment-focused, it's advisable to consult with the AAD for more specific guidance on workplace health and safety practices.

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