Australia's national workplace relations system

The national workplace relations system is established by the Fair Work Act 2009 and other laws and covers the majority of private sector employees and employers in Australia.

Australia's workplace relations laws

As set out in the Fair Work Act and other workplace legislation, the key elements of our workplace relations framework are:

  • A safety net of minimum terms and conditions of employment.
  • A system of enterprise-level collective bargaining underpinned by bargaining obligations and rules governing industrial action.
  • Provision for individual flexibility arrangements as a way to allow an individual worker and an employer to make flexible work arrangements that meet their genuine needs, provided that the employee is better off overall.
  • Protections against unfair or unlawful termination of employment.
  • Protection of the freedom of both employers and employees to choose whether or not to be represented by a third party in workplace matters and the provision of rules governing the rights and responsibilities of employer and employee representatives.

Australia's workplace relations laws are enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament. The practical application of the Fair Work Act in workplaces is overseen by the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The practical application of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 is overseen by the Fair Work Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.

  • The Fair Work Commission is the independent national workplace relations tribunal and has the power to carry out a range of functions in relation to workplace matters. These include the safety net of minimum conditions, enterprise bargaining, industrial action, dispute resolution and termination of employment. The commission also carries out a range of functions relating to registered organisations (unions and employer organisations) such as their registration, amalgamation, rules and applications for WHS and entry permits.
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman helps employees, employers, contractors and the wider community to understand their workplace rights and responsibilities and enforces compliance with Australia's workplace laws.
  • The Registered Organisations Commission monitors and educates registered organisations about their responsibilities such as record keeping, finances and elections. The commission was established in 2017 to increase financial transparency and accountability in registered organisations.

Want to know more about the Fair Work laws?