What is Fair Work Australia?
FW Act is the legislation governing Australia's employment relations system. The FW Act lays out the minimum workplace entitlements and obligations applicable to the majority of Australian employees. The FW Act has established two independent government organisations to manage the system: the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and the Fair Work Commission (FWC). Together they play a key part in regulating the Act.
What is the Fair Work Commission?
The FWC plays the role of a tribunal entity and sets the national minimum wage as well as the minimum wages in modern awards. They help resolve work issues and approve enterprise agreements.
What is the Role of Fair Work in Australia?
The FW Act regulates the relationship between employees and the majority of private-sector employers. It provides a safety net to ensure employees have minimum entitlements, whether it's the minimum wage, employment entitlements, modern award rates, conditions, and the National Employment Standards (NES). It facilitates flexible working arrangements, protects against unfair dismissals, and contains provisions for general employment protections to ensure employees are treated fairly and protects against discrimination.
The FW Act provides for minimum pay, leave entitlement, public holidays, redundancy, and a required period of notice for termination.
What is the Fair Work Ombudsman?
The FWO was established as a separate government agency by the FW Act 2009. Sandra Parker currently leads FWO, having been appointed to the position of Fair Work Ombudsman in 2018 for a 5-year term. The FWO has offices all over Australia, both in the capital cities and in regional parts of each state and territory, and takes responsibility for employer and employee education to ensure compliance with the FW Act.
The FWO's job is to make sure that everyone at work gets along and works well together. This includes:
- Providing an easy-to-access source for accurate and up-to-date information on Australia's workplace relations system;
- Teaching Australian workers about fair work practices, their rights, and obligations;
- Figuring out if there was a violation of workplace laws, awards, registered agreements, or FWC orders;
- Going to court to enforce laws at work and to deter people from doing the wrong thing; and
- Building strong and effective relationships with industry organisations and unions.
What are the Fair Work Priorities for 2022?
Each year the FWO introduces strategic priorities for the new year. For the 2022-23 financial year, the focus of Fair Work remains on helping workers and businesses recover from the pressures of COVID-19. Other industries of focus include:
- Fast food, cafes and restaurants;
- Sham contracting;
- Large corporate and university sectors; and
- Contract cleaning.
Restaurants, cafes, fast food, and agriculture are the main industries of focus for the new year. The FWO has found alarming levels of non-compliance across these industries, with many vulnerable workers making requests for assistance due to underpayment, visa issues, and so on. Likewise, the agriculture industry is heavily reliant on visa holders who are often at greater risk of exploitation due to complex supply chains.
The university sector has also been added as a new enforcement and compliance priority. This comes as a result of significant underpayments highlighted by university self-reports. As such, universities can expect a high level of enforcement action if they do not prioritise compliance.
Sham contracting, which is where someone is incorrectly hired as a contractor instead of an employee, is another focus on compliance and enforcement. The FWO aims to provide additional protections such as advice and assistance for vulnerable workers, whether it's young workers or visa holders.
Small businesses will remain a focus for the FWO due to their contribution to the Australian economy, as the country recovers from the impacts of COVID-19. In the 2021-2022 year alone, the FWO responded to over 50,000 calls to the Small Businesses Helpline, which highlights the need for additional ongoing assistance.
To find out more about the Fair Work priorities, you can visit the priorities page on the FWO site.