The ability to navigate the laws that underpin this system is important for business owners.

Understanding Australia’s Fair Work System

Australia has a long history around notions of the right to take industrial action and other workers rights helping to shape employment law within the country.

The Fair Work System was supposedly designed to balance the needs of employers and employees, but there are times when it can be hard for small businesses to find their way through the myriad of laws that underpin this system.

Changes to the way employment agreements are negotiated can have a long-term impact on the success of your business, while increases to awards often make it difficult to keep up to date with staff wages.

And many business and community leaders voiced their concern that the ground made with the introduction of the Howard government’s Work Choices has been undermined by the Fair Work system.

However the Fair Work Australia Act, which was passed in 2009, and the Fair Work Australia System has been fully operational since 2010 – which means that the time to negotiate the finer workings of the new legal framework for workplaces may not come into effect again until there is a change of government.

According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Fair Work Australia (FWA) takes on the role of an independent umpire and helps to resolve disputes between employers and employees.

But its amalgamated role under the Fair Work Act extends to determining unfair dismissal claims, minimum wage and whether certain industrial action is considered lawful.

Any unfair dismissal claims or concerns over good faith bargaining are also directed to FWA for consideration, while the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman was established to better enforce the legal requirements of the FWA Act.

With this in mind, it is important for small business owners to familiarise themselves with this still relatively new system so that they do not run the risk of failing to comply. For example, updating their working knowledge of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code – which sets out the steps small employers need to take to avoid employees challenging their dismissal.

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