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Rights of workers in Australia

If you are an employee or an employer, it is wise to be familiar with the rights and entitlements of workers and where these rights originate.

The rights of workers in Australia have been streamlined and made uniform with the introduction of the national Fair Work System.  The Fair Work System applies to most workplaces in Australia.

Under the Fair Work System, employee’s rights primarily stem from the 11 National Employment Standards (which we will call the NES) and the Modern Awards.

The NES and Modern Awards confer on Australian workers a host of minimum entitlements relating to work hours, pay rates, penalties, leave and more.  They are a baseline standard of entitlements, which all employers must meet and cannot be contracted out of (with the exception of some flexible provisions that can be changed by agreement between the employer and employee in an Individual Flexibility Agreement.  However, under such an arrangement, the employee must be better off overall).

The National Employment Standards (NES)

The NES set out 11 minimum entitlements for employees and operates as a safety net of minimum rights for all full time and part-time employees in the national work place relations system (many applying to casuals as well).

The NES addresses the following matters:-

    • maximum weekly hours;
    • requests for flexible working arrangements under an Individual Flexibility Agreement;
    • parental leave and related entitlements;
    • annual leave;
    • personal or carers leave;
    • compassionate leave entitlements;
    • offers and requests to convert from casual to permanent employment
    • community service leave;
    • long service leave;
    • public holidays;
    • notice of termination and redundancy pay; and
    • the provision of the Fair Work Information Statement to all new employees.

Modern Awards

A Modern Award will apply to most employees throughout Australia.  As the name suggests, Modern Awards have been modernised and updated, based on industry and occupation.

Modern Awards set out further rights and entitlements of employees of specific industry and occupation types.  These include minimum rates of pay, superannuation, hours of work, breaks, penalties, overtime, leave, termination and redundancy and other matters relevant to the industry and role.

Employment Contracts

Although the NES and Modern Awards cannot be contracted out of (except for “flexible terms” by way of an Individual flexibility Agreement), Employment Contracts entered into with employees can add to or extend a workers rights and entitlements and set out additional details regarding a worker’s role, duties and payment details.

For further resources and information on the rights of workers in Australia, go to Fair Work Australia