Introduction to the National Employment Standards

Read our introductory fact sheet on the National Employment Standards.

Download the fact sheet:

What are the National Employment Standards?

The National Employment Standards (NES) are the minimum standards of employment which cover the following:

For small business employers, paid family and domestic violence leave starts from 1 August 2023.

Until then, employees of a small business can access up to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave. A small business, for these purposes, is one that had less than 15 employees on 1 February 2023.

Who do the NES apply to?

The NES apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, however only certain entitlements apply to casual employees.

These are:

  • maximum weekly hours
  • 2 days unpaid carer’s leave and 2 days unpaid compassionate leave per occasion
  • 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave (in a 12-month period)
  • community service leave (except paid jury service)
  • public holidays
  • the Fair Work Information Statement and the Casual Employment Information Statement
  • right to casual conversion.

Casual employees have the right to become a permanent (full-time or part-time) employee in some circumstances. This is known as ‘casual conversion’. This can be a requirement for the employer to offer their employee casual conversion, or a right for the employee to request it.

In addition, casual employees who have been employed for at least 12 months by an employer on a regular and systematic basis and with an expectation of ongoing employment are entitled to:

  • make requests for flexible working arrangements
  • parental leave and related entitlements.

There are also two NES that apply to all full-time and part-time employees, whether they are covered by the national workplace relations system or not. These are:

  • parental leave and related entitlements
  • notice of termination.

How do the NES apply?

Terms in awards, registered agreements and employment contracts cannot exclude or provide for an entitlement less than the NES, and those that do have no effect. However, they can affect the operation of the NES in certain ways.

For example, they may specify terms that deal with:

  • averaging an employee’s ordinary hours of work
  • the cashing out and taking of paid annual leave
  • the cashing out of paid sick and carer’s leave
  • extra sick and carer’s leave or annual leave in exchange for foregoing an equivalent amount of pay
  • the substitution of public holidays
  • situations in which redundancy entitlements do not apply.

They may also supplement the NES by providing entitlements that are more favourable for employees.

Penalties can apply for a contravention of the NES. The maximum penalty a court may impose is $16,500 per breach for an individual and $82,500 per breach for a company. Penalty amounts are subject to change. You can check the current maximum penalties on our Litigation page.

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