Employment law in Australia.

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What is the employment law in Australia?

As an employer, you are legally obligated to comply with all aspects of Australian employment law and ensure your employees can work comfortably in a safe and secure environment – free of bullying, discrimination, and harassment.

Complying with employment law is good business practice as it boosts your professional image, attracts higher quality talent, and increases retention rates.

At times, there are tailored workplace regulations that apply to specific states and territories around the country. It is necessary to know these distinctions and understand which workplace laws apply to your business.

Why legislation is important in the workplace

There is legislation that applies to all national system employer across Australia. This is regardless of territory, states, business models or industry.

The objective is to place responsibility on the employer to ensure that their employees are treated fairly and are receiving the minimum employment rights and entitlements – including minimum pay, leave entitlements, redundancy, notice periods, and more.

Here is a list of important national workplace legislation in Australia:

What are the different types of legislation?

Below are a few examples and context of some of the important workplace legislation.

Fair Work Act 2009

The purpose of this act is to establish national workplace standards between an employer and an employee. The act serves to provide a safety net of minimum entitlements through the national minimum wage, Modern Awards and the National Employment Standards (the NES). Further it allows for flexible working arrangements, protection from unfair dismissal and ensures all employees are treated fairly and protected from discrimination.

Under Australian employment law, the terms of the Fair Work Act 2009 apply to businesses of all types, sizes, and industries across Australia.

However, there are a few exemptions to this. For example, in Western Australia the following types of business would not be covered by the Fair Work Act:

  • Sole traders
  • Partnerships
  • Other unincorporated entities
  • Non-trading corporations

State and Federal anti-discrimination laws

There are multiple acts within Australia that are aimed at helping protect people from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. There is legislation at a Federal level that protects people from race, sex, disability and age discrimination. This is governed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In addition to the Federal laws each state and territory have their own anti-discrimination and harassment legislation that protects employees, and prospective employees, in the workplace. The purpose of this legislation is to protect employees against all forms of discrimination – this includes age, gender, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation and more.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

This act provides a framework to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all employees at work. It also protects the health and safety of other people who may be affected by the work such as customers, visitors, and the general public.

From incident reporting and consulting workers to issuing fines and penalties, this workplace health and safety legislation covers a wide range of regulations and procedures, which aim to help employees feel safe, secure, and comfortable – wherever they work.

Disability Discrimination Act 1992  

(this is covered in state and federal anti-discrimination laws above)

The Disability Discrimination Act is designed to protect employees in Australia from discrimination based on their disability.

Under this act, it is illegal to treat an employee less fairly because they have a disability. This also extends to employees who have relatives, friends, co-workers, or associates of a person with a disability.

What the act considers to be a ‘disability’ applies to not only physical disorders but also intellectual, sensory, neurological, and psychiatric disorders as well.

For this reason, it is important to remember you cannot discriminate against candidates and new hires based on their disability, and that you must – within a reasonable capacity – accommodate for a disabled employee.

What rights do employers have in the workplace?

As an employer, you have a number of rights and responsibilities to abide by under various employment legislation.

Some of the most important responsibilities to consider include:

  • provide a safe working environment
  • protect all employees from bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment
  • give all employees the necessary training, resources, and mentoring they need to work safely and efficiently
  • inform all employees of their rights and responsibilities
  • train employees on potential hazards and safety risks in the workplace
  • meet first aid requirements
  • report workplace incidents and injuries to Safe Work Australia
  • supply protective clothing and equipment for employees and ensure they know how to use them correctly

To stay informed of your rights and responsibilities as an employer, seek advice from a workplace relations specialist. They can inform you about your current rights and update you on changes to legislation that apply to your award or industry.

Furthermore, you get peace of mind knowing you have the knowledge and support to comply with Australian employment law.

Employsure can help you become familiar with all aspects of Australian Employment Law and the Fair Work Act 2009. For peace of mind, please call our 24-hour Advice Line now on 1300 207 182.

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