Industrial Relations Update

Over the past few weeks, numerous state legislatures have passed laws referring industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth.

From 1 January 2010, private sector workers and employers in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania will be governed by the Federal industrial relations system under the Commonwealth’s Fair Work Act 2009.  In each jurisdiction, public sector employees will remain subject to state law.

Western Australia has announced it will not be referring its industrial powers to the Commonwealth.

The Territories’ private sectors will be governed by the Commonwealth system.  Victoria referred powers to the Commonwealth in the 1990s, and employees and employers in that state will continue to be covered by the federal system.

Key points of the new national workplace relations system for the private sector include:

  • National Employment Standards – the Fair Work Act provides a set of ten minimum standards enforceable on all employers and employees in the national system.  More information can be found here.
  • Sole-traders, partnerships, unincorporated entities and non-trading corporations which had not previously been subject to Commonwealth law will now be covered by the national system.  Information regarding specific states can be accessed here.
  • Modern awards will begin to replace existing awards in most industries.  Modern awards are industry specific minimum standards applying in addition to the National Employment Standards.  Information about the types of matters covered by modern awards can be found here.
  • These modern awards are designed to ensure one set of minimum standards across Australia for employees and employers in the same industries.  The modern awards will replace thousands of existing awards.
    More information about how modern awards affect rates of pay, transitional arrangements and the progressive phasing in of different pay rates can be accessed here, here, and here.