The Fair Work system

Learn who’s covered by the Fair Work system and what that means for employee entitlements and pay.

The Fair Work system was created by the Fair Work Act 2009 and started on 1 July 2009. The Fair Work system is the name used for the minimum employment laws and agency bodies that were created by the Fair Work Act 2009. It's the national workplace relations system.

For a brief outline of Australia's workplace relations law, visit the Australia's industrial relations timeline page.

Key features of the Fair Work system

The key features of the Fair Work system are:

  • 11 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 several key bodies that have roles in the Fair Work system:

From 2023, the Registered Organisations Commission will be abolished and its functions given to the Fair Work Commission. Learn more at Secure Jobs, Better Pay: Changes to Australian Workplace Laws.

Who is covered by the Fair Work system

The Fair Work system covers most Australian workplaces. Working out who is covered is important because we work with employers and employees covered by the Fair Work system (the national system).

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

Check who isn't covered in your state or territory by selecting from the list below:

Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

Generally, all employees and employers in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory are covered by the national system.

New South Wales

State public sector and local government employees aren't 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.

South Australia

State public sector and local government employees aren't 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.

Queensland

State public sector and local government employees aren't 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.

Tasmania

State public sector employees remain under the state system.

Local government employees are covered by the national system.

Some state public sector employers in these states have registered agreements in the national system. Employees covered by those registered agreements are within the national system.

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.

Western Australia

State public sector and local government employees are covered by the state system.

The following types of businesses aren't covered by the national system:

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

These types of businesses and their employees are covered by the state system.

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

If a business is run by a sole trader in the state system in Western Australia and changes to a company, it will move to the national system.

If a business is run by a partnership in the state system in Western Australia, the partnership will usually qualify as a national system employer if one of the partners is:

  • a company
  • engaged in sufficient trading or financial activities.

For more information about different business structures, visit business.gov.au – Business structures.

For more information on who’s covered by the state system, please visit the Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety: Who is in the WA industrial relations system?.

What existed before the Fair Work Ombudsman

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

Tools and resources

Related information