Employment contracts do not have to be in writing. However, it is best practice to record the key terms of employment in a formal written agreement.
Contracts should include the following elements at a minimum:
Employers are also required to provide all employees with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, which summarises crucial provision and employee rights under the National Employment Standards.
Employees are entitled to receive a payslip, hard or e-copy, within one working day of being paid.
Employees with 12 months of service have the right to request to adjust their existing working schedule. This can include flexible working hours, pattern or location of work to suit their lifestyle and circumstances better.
Flexible working is available for employees who are:
Employers must consider and respond to the employee's written request within 21 days. They can only refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.
Each state and territory in Australia has equal opportunity legislation in place, which broadly requires that employers treat and give all employees equal opportunity to be hired, promoted, and trained.
Employers have to provide each new employee with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, which includes information about the conditions of employment, including their rights.
Modern Awards are legal documents that outline the minimum entitlements and conditions of employment of over 120 different jobs. They primarily cover wages and conditions and are based on the particular industry and occupation. Some key aspects that contribute to Modern Awards are the type of employment, overtime, penalty rates, allowances, superannuation, and leave entitlements. Employers need to pay employees, which are covered by a Modern Award, the amount set out in the relevant award at least. Employers can find whether a Modern Award covers an employee by using the 'Award Finder'.
Software developers and engineers are typically covered by the Professional Employees Award 2020.
Suppose a Modern Award covers a particular employee. In that case, they need to be notified of the applicable award, the relevant level/classification under the award and the applicable rate of pay. These terms should be included in the employment contract.
An enterprise agreement is another form of industrial instrument, which, like Modern Awards, also contains minimum terms and conditions of employment. They are, however, made at an enterprise level and therefore apply to particular groups of an employer.
In Australia, the specific requirements for health and safety vary between states. In general, all employers must undertake processes to identify and manage risks and implement health and safety committees, which include nominated employee representatives. The general obligation is that an employer has a duty of care to protect its employees so far as reasonably practicable.
Whistleblower protections extend to a variety of public and private activities and cover both current and former employees who disclose any of the following:
Under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), public and enterprise companies must offer more substantial protection to whistleblowing employees through an adequate whistleblower policy. They should be guaranteed anonymity if requested, given increased immunity against prosecutions and extended protection against detriment (including dismissal) through victimisation.
Employees are protected from adverse treatment when making a complaint or inquiry about their employment, irrespective of whether those qualify for whistleblower protection.
It is common for employers to implement policies intended to protect employees who report misconduct.
Sexual harassment is unlawful under the state and Commonwealth legislation, but Australian law does not require training. Since employers carry a responsibility for the employee's health and well-being at work, they can be held liable if sexual harassment at the workplace does occur. For this reason, the implementation of sexual harassment policies, procedures and training are highly recommended. They will serve as evidence that an employer has taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.
All employees have the right to be respected and not bullied at the workplace. Bullying is when a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards a worker, and the behaviour creates a risk to their health or safety. Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening. Examples of bullying include:
It is unlawful to either directly or indirectly discriminate against a person in all aspects of employment relationships, including recruitment and termination. Discrimination is prohibited based on:
The range of attributes varies from state to state.
Employees who have been employed for six months (12 months for businesses with less than 15 employees) are protected from dismissals that are "harsh, unjust or unreasonable".
When the Fair Work Commission investigates a potentially harsh, unjust or unreasonable dismissal, they will review:
When an employee claims unfair dismissal, the Fair Work Commission will ask the employer to give evidence of compliance with this Code. Things that qualify as evidence include a warning issued to the employee, copies of written notices, a statement of termination or signed witness statements.
Current and potential employees are extended protections from adverse actions against their fundamental workplace rights. Under the Fair Work Act, they are:
Relating to the existence or exercise of these fundamental employee rights, employers are forbidden from the following adverse actions:
There is no general legal right to privacy. Currently, the Privacy Act 1988 provides a framework for the collection, correction, use and disclosure of personal information. However, the handling of "employee records" by a private-sector employer is exempt from the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act only applies to an employee record if the information is used for purposes unrelated to the employment relationship.
Employers are free to collect, use and disclose employee records and outsource employment-related functions without obtaining prior consent, provided these acts are directly related to the employment relationship.
This does not apply to prospective employees or contractors.
Employees are protected from the following acts:
Full-time employees are entitled to ten days paid personal leave per year, which can be used as sick or carer's leave.
Parental leave comprises the birth or adoption of a child and includes maternity leave, paternity leave (for fathers or partners) and adoption leave. All parental leave is unpaid, but depending on the agreement, company policy or award, the leave can be paid. Primary carers are usually entitled to government-funded parental leave pay at the national minimum wage for a maximum period of 18 weeks.
Employees that have been working with the same company for an extended period are entitled to a long service leave of 2 to 3 months. The minimum length of service varies from five to ten years, depending on the state.
When an employee ceases work with an employer, and they haven't taken all of their extended service leave, they are entitled the amount of leave on a pro-rata basis, as long as they fulfil the required length of service.
There is no at-will employment termination in Australia. Under the FW Act, employees are entitled to a minimum notice period that ranges between one and four weeks. Employees that have worked with the company for two years and are 45 years of age or older receive an additional week's notice. Employers may choose to pay in lieu of notice, provided there is an ability to do so under their contract of employment.
It is common practice for employers to include longer notice periods in an employee's contract of employment. Most tech companies have a 1-month notice period (which would increase to 5 weeks' notice if the employee has attained five years of service and is over the age of 45). It is also common for senior executives to be bound longer periods of notice, for example, three months.
Workers' compensation is statutory insurance that all employers must provide. It protects employees in case they suffer a work-related injury or disease. Generally, the payment covers wages while the employee is unfit for work and medical expenses and rehabilitation costs.
There are state and territory regulators that administer the compensation and amount of money paid.
The amount paid to an employee is an insurance payment and not a wage. The employee can be paid:
The Australian Government offers financial assistance to eligible employees who have lost their job because their employer was liquidated or bankrupt.
Employees have access to the Fair Entitlement Guarantee (FEG), that covers the following unpaid employment entitlements:
Employees are further entitled to receive priority treatment, be ranked above unsecured creditors and be paid in a required order set out under corporations legislation.
The Fair Entitlement Guarantee does not cover the following entitlements:
Employees are entitled to two days paid compassionate leave if an employee's immediate family member is seriously ill or dies. Immediate family is an employee's:
Employees can take compassionate leave for other relatives (e.g. cousins, aunts and uncles) if they are a member of the employee's household, or if the employer agrees to this.
Employees are entitled to five days of unpaid leave in 12 months (some companies elect to provide paid leave) in the case of family domestic violence incidence. What falls under that is any violent, threatening or otherwise abusive behaviour by an employee's close relative that seeks to coerce or control them or causes them harm or fear. This could come from any member of the employee's immediate family (or is related to them according to The Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules).
Employees are entitled to a leave for engaging in an eligible community service activity, such as for voluntary emergency management activities (unpaid) or jury duty (paid). The following criteria must be met:
An employee is entitled to take community service leave while they are engaged in the activity and for reasonable travel and rest time. There is no limit on the amount of community service leave an employee can take.
Employees must give their employers notice of the absence as soon as possible and the period or expected period of absence. Employers may request the employee to provide evidence that they're entitled to community service leave.
Employees who have been with the company for at least 12 weeks are entitled to redundancy pay when their employment is terminated because the employer no longer requires the job. Redundancy pay varies from 4 to 16 weeks' pay based on the amount of time the company has employed them:
Employees have the right to join or not a union at work, and cannot be treated less favourably or pressured for deciding either way.