Australia is the world’s 6th largest country in land size. It is the largest country in Oceania, which comprises 14 independent nations (including New Zealand and other small Pacific island countries).

The 6 mainland states, along with the adjacent island state of Tasmania, make up the country of Australia. Based on the location of its 7 states; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, Southern Australia, and Tasmania, the country is divided into 3 separate time zones.

The country is located between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Being a country in the southern hemisphere of the world, Australia enjoys hot summers and cold winters. With a small population of just 25.79 million people, the middle of the country is largely empty as most Australians live along the coastal areas and in large cities like Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

Being a developed nation with an annual GDP of around USD 1.3 trillion, Australia attracts a large number of skilled migrants from around the world, especially from Asian countries. The country has strict employment and labor laws that are also controversial in how strictly their deportation rules are enforced for undocumented migrant workers. Only those skilled migrants issued a work permit and whose occupations are listed on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) can contribute to Australia’s economy.

Employment and Labor Laws in Australia

Fair Work Act 2009

All Australian nationals and foreign workers are entitled to basic rights and protections under the Fair Work Act of 2009. The purpose of the Act was to foster a healthy working relationship between the employer and the employees and provide all employees with basic employment rights such as minimum wage, paid leaves, compensation for overtime, protection against unlawful dismissal, and health and safety.

Under this Act, a Fair Work Commission was formed to oversee the enforcement of workplace laws and bring unlawful practices at the workplace to the government’s attention. All the industries and businesses in Australia that have employed foreign as well as local workers are subjected to the Fair Work Act 2009.

The only exemptions are as follows:

  • Sole traders
  • Partnerships
  • Other unincorporated entities
  • Non-trading corporations

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

In 2011, Australia passed the Work Health and Safety Act, which immediately came into effect in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and will soon be adopted in Western Australia by the end of 2021.

The Act enforces employers to pay attention to their worker’s health, safety, and welfare, especially of those employees who are working in dangerous settings like chemical industries, construction sites, or mining fields.

Under this statute, all employees are eligible for worker’s compensation, basic health insurance, paid leave, and medical allowance in case they get injured or fall sick at work. Employers are obligated to provide safety equipment and conduct regular fire and safety training and health inspections to ensure that the workplace is safe for all employees.

Employees are also encouraged to report incidents of bullying, sexual harassment, physical assaults, and any form of mental or emotional strain that threatens their health, safety, or wellbeing and affects their performance at work.

State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

Even though the Fair Work Act protects employees against all forms of discrimination, bullying, and harassment at work, there are several state and federal laws that are in place to ensure that current, as well as former employees, have protection from racial, religious, gender, disability or age discrimination at the workplace. The Act is administered and enforced by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

At the state level, you can file a complaint if you feel that your employer is discriminating, harassing, or bullying you and your safety and wellbeing feels threatened. The independent law enforcement bodies at the state and territory level will take the necessary action to give your protection and safeguard your rights.

Basic Employment and Labor Laws in Australia

  • Four weeks of paid leave per year
  • Employees should not work for more than 38 hours per week
  • Employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave
  • In certain circumstances, employees can request flexible working hours and arrangements.
  • Employers cannot fire an employee without prior notice or on unlawful grounds
  • All employees must be paid the national minimum wage for services regardless of their role and responsibilities.

To learn more about Australian employment laws click here.