The Fair Work system

The Fair Work system was created by the Fair Work Act 2009 and started on 1 July 2009. It covers employers and employees within the national workplace relations system.

Key features of the Fair Work system

The key features of the Fair Work system are:

  • the 10 minimum National Employment Standards
  • awards that apply nationally for specific industries and occupations
  • the national minimum wage
  • protection from unfair dismissal.

Awards, together with the National Employment Standards and the national minimum wage, make up a safety net of entitlements for employees covered by the Fair Work system.

There are 4 bodies that have roles in the Fair Work system:

  • the Fair Work Commission
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman
  • the Fair Work Building Commission
  • the Fair Work Federal Division of the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

Working out who is covered by the Fair Work system is important because the Fair Work Ombudsman works with employers and employees covered by the national system.

Who is covered by the Fair Work system

The Fair Work system covers most Australian workplaces.

Employers and employees who aren’t covered by the Fair Work system will be covered by their state system. Those not covered include:

  • employees employed by state government and local governments (unless their employer has a registered agreement in the national system)
  • many employees employed in Western Australia.

Employers and employees who aren’t covered by the national system should contact the relevant state body or their internal human resources department for help.

Check coverage in your state by selecting from the list below:

Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

All employees and employers in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory are covered by the national system.

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New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania

State public sector and local government employees are not covered by the national system and remain under the state system.

Some state public sector and local government employers have registered agreements in the national system. Employees covered by those registered agreements are within the national system.

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Victoria

State government employees working in sectors that provide essential services of core government functions aren’t covered by the national system. These include state infrastructure services such as electricity and gas.

Some state government employers have registered agreements in the national system. Employees covered by those registered agreements are within the national system.

All other employees in Victoria are covered by the national system.

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Western Australia

Businesses not covered by the national system include businesses operating as:

  • sole traders
  • partnerships
  • other unincorporated entities
  • non-trading corporations.

Those businesses and their employees are covered by the state system. State public sector and local government employees are also covered by the state system.

Sometimes businesses operating as sole traders, partnerships, other unincorporated entities, non-trading corporations, and state public sector or local government employers have registered agreements in the national system. Employees covered by those agreements are within the national system.

For more information on who’s covered by the state system, please visit the Department of Commerce: Western Australian industrial relations system coverage external-icon.png.

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What existed before the Fair Work Ombudsman?

Name Dates
Workplace Ombudsman 2007 – 1 July 2009
Office of the Employment Advocate 1997 – 2007

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