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Australian employment law

The Australian Constitution (“the Constitution”) has had a major impact on labour regulation in Australia. For much of the 20th Century, there was a significant division of responsibility for labour matters between the Federal Government and the six States and two Territories. However, following the 2005 Work Choices reforms, the responsibility for labour matters has shifted predominantly to Federal regulation.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) is the primary legislative source of employment regulation in Australia. The Act contains employment standards and conditions, union regulation, and anti-discrimination protection.

The Australian Government has recently also put in place model laws to harmonise work health and safety legislation across Australia. These laws aim to reduce the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness.


Key Points

Employee rights in Australia are protected and regulated in the following ways:

  • The most basic source of employment terms and conditions derives from the employment contract. The contract will contain express terms, and in Australia the courts have recognised some standard terms which will be implied into the contract of employment.
  • The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) outlines minimum employment standards, including leave, maximum weekly hours, notice of termination and redundancy pay. • Modern Awards set out the minimum conditions of employment for specific industries or occupations, such as rates of pay and allowances.
  • Federal and State anti-discrimination legislation affords employees with rights against discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation.
  • Federal and State work health and safety legislation applies to reduce the occurrence of work-related death, injury and illness.
  • State based workers’ compensation legislation provides for compulsory basic insurance of employees who are injured at work. an alliance of employers’ counsel worldwide
  • Superannuation Guarantee legislation requires employers to pay contributions to an approved superannuation fund for their employees.

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