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Employment & Workplace Relations in Australia

Shawn Skyring , Lisa Qiu

Across Australia, the Fair Work Commission regulates minimum conditions of employment across all industries. The Fair Work legislation provides for 10 National Employment Standards (NES) which provide particular minimum conditions for employees. There are also separate state and territory laws regulating areas such as long service leave and work, health and safety. Most employees will be covered by a Modern Award which sets out minimum pay rates and conditions, in conjunction with the NES.

Key issues for new entrants to consider

  1. Ensure the correct laws are followed when hiring employees. It is necessary to ascertain if a Modern Award applies to an employee’s employment and the correct classification under the Award. Not getting this right can result in breaches of the Fair Work legislation, potential underpayment of wages and fines / penalties.
  2. Regardless of the type of work being performed by employees it is advisable to put in place properly drafted contracts of employment that set out the conditions of employment the employer wishes to stipulate that may not be contained in Modern Awards. Also, contracts of employment can form the basis of employment for employees not covered by any award in addition to the NES.
  3. Consider putting in place key policies such as Work Health and Safety, Anti-discrimination/bullying/harassment, Workplace Surveillance policies etc. Such policies not only assist educating employees on appropriate conduct but assist in supporting disciplinary consequences where conduct infringing the policy has taken place.
  4. Having regard to the seniority of an employee and their access to confidential information and customers of the business, consider putting in place appropriate and well drafted restraint and non-solicitation provisions in contracts of employment to protect key commercial interests of the business.
  5. Depending on the industry in which work will take place and if the business is an ongoing concern, consider if there are any Enterprise Agreements in place which have been approved by the Fair Work Commission (setting terms and conditions) and whether there are any active issues on the work site involving trade unions.

If you have any questions or require assistance with any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact a member of Coleman Greig’s Employment Law Team, who would be more than happy to assist you.