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Fair Work in Australia Fair Work in Australia

As you might expect, businesses in Australia are not given free reign to operate as they like. There are certain laws and legislations in place to ensure that all Australian workplaces are fair and provide equal opportunity to all of those involved. Most of these regulations fall under the umbrella of Fair Work Australia.

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What You Really Need to Know About Fair Work Australia

As a business owner or employer, there are certain requirements which you need to adhere to in order to guarantee that all employees are treated fairly and without prejudice. Regardless of your specific business model or industry, employees are entitled to certain rights and entitlements associated with your industry, including a minimum rate of pay. It’s important that employers both understand their obligations under Fair Work legislation as well as maintain them within their businesses. Failure to adhere to specific requirements within Fair Work legislation can result in investigations and even fines.

Fair Work legislation protects and governs a variety of aspects to work conditions for all registered businesses. Some of the key areas that fall under Fair Work Australia include:

  • minimum wage
  • long service leave
  • parental leave
  • Modern Awards
  • redundancy
  • unfair dismissal and more

Fair Work Act 2009

The primary legislation which governs at the centre of all of Australia’s workplace relations is the Commonwealth Parliament’s Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act). This item of legislation includes entitlements and regulations that cover all employees within the Australian workforce. As a business owner or employer, you are responsible for treating all of your employees fairly and issuing them with the correct entitlements as indicated in their relevant employment agreement. So with this in mind, it is important for you to be well aware and informed of any requirements and obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009. The Act includes all variances and instruments of employee entitlements and regulations, including the National Employment Standards (NES), Modern Awards, and Enterprise Agreements. These standards, Awards and agreements are mandatory and individual employment contracts cannot take away the minimum entitlements which are outlined in the NES or any corresponding Modern Award. You can find out more about Modern Awards here in Employsure’s full guide.

Similar to a lot of other items of Australian legislation, the Fair Work Act 2009 is a complicated document, over 500 pages long. It can be difficult for anyone to read through and comprehend. It is understandable then that business owners and employers alike are often confused by the difficult language. However, even though it is still a difficult thing to understand, the cost which comes with noncompliance to its contents can be significant. There are also frequent changes to the document which means that even if you think you are familiar with it, keeping up to date means regularly revising and understanding it. Some of these changes include updates to parental leave, concurrent parental leave, changes to minimum wages and flexible working arrangements, as well as anti-bullying or harassment measures.

There are two bodies which govern the oversight of the Act’s practical application in Australian workplaces. They are the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman. These agencies work in tandem to administer, govern, and cooperate fair work within Australia and ensure that employers and business owners alike adhere to what is included in the legislation.

What do the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman do?

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is the independent national workplace relations tribunal which has the power to carry out a range of functions relating to workplace matters. Some of the workplace matters the FWC oversees are the ten minimum conditions set out in the NES, enterprise bargaining, industrial actions, dispute resolution and termination of employment. While they oversee all of these factors to workplace relations, their core focus is on resolving workplace issues and disputes between employees and employers.

Both employers and employees are afforded the ability to make an application to the FWC, but it is important to know that an application with the FWC indicates the beginning of a legal process. Some of the matters that may have caused the initiation of an application include unfair dismissals, bullying stop orders, underpayments, disputes under Awards or other agreements formed within the workplace. You should also know that once an application is made to the FWC, there are certain fees associated.

Similar to the Fair Work Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) works to ensure the correct understanding and implementation of the Fair Work Act’s legislation in Australia. However, unlike the Fair Work Commission’s tribunal-nature, the FWO works to help employees, employers, contractors and the wider workplace community understand their workplace rights and responsibilities, with the key agenda being to keep workplaces fair through education and mediation. All of the FWO’s services are free and rather than operating in an enforcement capacity, they offer information, tools, templates and help for individuals to resolve workplace matters without the need for intervention.

Why Fair Work in Australia matters

With most of Australia’s population spending the majority of their days at work, it is important that the relationships between employees and employers is fair, productive and equal for all involved. The only way to do that is for employers and business owners to be up to date with Fair Work legislation and regulations, and keep them implemented within their respective organisations. As these legislations are regularly changing, it is equally important for employers and business owners to be vigilant in their comprehension of current legislation.

In many cases, workplace incidents and disputes occur due to employers not knowing their obligations, but equally so, many cases involve a degree or uncertainty or confusion with what the exact requirements are. Even so, it is the responsibility of business owners and employers to be fully up to date with Fair Work Australia legislation, and ensure that their employees both receive the correct entitlements as outlined in their specific employment agreement and that they are treated fairly. Non compliance can come at quite a cost to a business, so it is essential that you are aware of the Fair Work Act 2009, and understand all of the rights and obligations associated with it.

We understand that running a business is challenging in itself without the added difficulties of complying with regulatory guidelines outlined in the Fair Work Act 2009. Employsure can take the burden out of navigating complex workplace regulations, ensuring professional advice is at your fingertips and that you are correctly complying with Fair Work legislation in Australia.

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