the fair work act: understanding your obligations

The newly refined changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) imposed a number of obligations on employers. Particularly, the requirement to fulfil the minimum entitlements granted to employees. As a result of this change, small to medium-sized businesses are somewhat left questioning the relevance of the alterations to their business structures. If you are unsure of your compliance under the act, seek the advice of employment lawyers in Melbourne to avoid violating the law.

What Are Your Obligations Under The Fair Work Act?

As an employer within Australia, you are obligated to provide fair and safe working conditions to your employees in order to promote economic growth and social inclusion (The Fair Work Act, s3). Understanding your responsibilities under this act will ensure that you are able to comply with the changes and avoid the imposition of penalties. In summary below, are some of the most important changes that were implemented through the operation of the Fair Work Act

  1. Compliance with the National Employment Standards (NES)

As a consequence of the Fair Work Act, the National Employment Standards (NES) were created. The 10 minimum entitlements that are provided to employees are binding on employers- which means failure to comply will result in a breach of the law. Some of the entitlements granted under the NES include notice of termination and redundancy payments, long service leave and annual leave. The NES contributes a significant part of the Fair Work Act as it provides the fundamental baseline of employment. This means that employers cannot construct employment contacts, or for that matter, any registered agreements which contravene the minimum requirements of the NES. Although you can provide greater employee benefits, the mandatory minimum is set out by the NES. You can read more about the NES by clicking here.

  1. Fulfilling Minimum Wages – Modern Awards

Similar to the NES, modern awards also provide minimum employment conditions that govern an employment contract. However more specifically, the modern award covers minimum wages. This means that any employment contract or agreement that is entered into, between an employer and employee, must be of equal or better value than the relevant and applicable award. If a business fails to provide the minimum wages which they are legally bound to do so, they will be found in contravention of the law and could be ordered to back pay their employees. Consequently, it is crucial for businesses to properly identify the applicable award to ensure their compliance with the terms specified within. You can search for the applicable awards by using the Fair Work Ombudsman tool found here.

  1. Unfair Dismissal

If you have recently been dismissed from your workplace or pressured to resign by your employer, you may have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Tribunal. In the circumstance that the Fair Work Tribunal finds for ‘unfair dismissal’, reinstatement may be ordered or compensation can be granted in favour of the employee. Therefore as a business, it is necessary to ensure that you follow fair disciplining and terminating processes otherwise you may be actioned against in legal proceedings. Lawyers Weekly highlights an interesting case related to unfair dismissal that you can read about here.

Although at first glance the adjustments made to the Fair Work Act may seem inapplicable and irrelevant to some business owners, it is crucial to understand their importance as they provide a bare minimum framework of benefits for employees. Your failure to comply as a business could lead to hefty back payments and the general conception of unlawful or exploitative practises- something the federal legislature intended to deter with the enactment of these changes.