Fair Work Act 2009

The Fair Work Act and Regulations are the central pieces of legislation that govern the employer/employee relationship in Australia. They cover the minimum entitlements of workers, flexible working arrangements, and fairness at work. They also prevent discrimination against employees.

The legislation provides ten national employment standards that must be satisfied, which are:

  1. maximum weekly hours of work – 38 hours plus reasonable additional hours that are agreed upon by the employer and employee
  2. the entitlement to request flexible working arrangements under certain circumstances
  3. parental leave and related entitlements
  4. annual leave of four weeks per year, plus an additional week for certain shift workers (stated under each industry award)
  5. personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave – ten days’ paid carer’s leave for full-time employees, ten days pro-rata for part-time employees; two days’ unpaid carer’s leave (once paid leave has been used), and two days’ paid compassionate leave that can be used at any time (unpaid for casual workers)
  6. community service leave – unpaid leave for voluntary emergency activities, and in the case of jury duty, up to ten days’ of ‘make-up pay’ i.e. the difference between jury duty payment and the employee base rate of pay for the hours they would have worked
  7. long-service leave – once an employee has been working for an employer for a long period (usually seven years), they are entitled to long-service leave, dependent on state and territory laws, while employees under a pre-modernised award refer back to the federal law, not the state or territory legislation
  8. public holidays – a paid day off on a public holiday, unless reasonably requested to work
  9. notice of termination and redundancy pay – minimum notice of up to four weeks (five weeks if employee is over 45 years old and worked for at two years with employers), and up to 16 weeks’ severance pay at redundancy, both based on length of service
  10. provision of a Fair Work Information Statement.

The Fair Work Information Statement is available to download from the Fair Work Australia website.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) are the two key organisations in Australia’s workplace relations system. Each has different functions within that system.

the Fair Work Ombudsman

The FWO is an independent statutory agency which educates people about their workplace rights and obligations, investigates breaches of people’s workplace rights, and takes cases to court to enforce workplace laws.

the Fair Work Commission

The FWC is the independent national workplace relations tribunal. It makes decisions about the National Minimum Wage and can create and change modern awards. 

The Commission hears workplace-related matters initiated by individuals or organisations, and makes decisions about many workplace matters, including unfair dismissal, industrial action, equal pay, transfer of business, right of entry and enterprise bargaining.

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