The Fair Work Act (FW Act) uses Commonwealth constitutional powers to extend its operation as far as possible. This includes the power to make laws:

  • in all its Territories, e.g. ACT and Northern Territory;
  • that relate to foreign, trading or financial corporations formed within the Commonwealth; and
  • to give effect to international treaties and conventions signed by Australia.

The coverage of the FW Act was extended further when referrals of power to the Commonwealth were negotiated with all States except for Western Australia. Victoria referred its power in 1996, and the remaining States have done so since.

These referrals of power were given effect through legislation passed by each State referring its power to make laws about workplace relations to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth, namely the Fair Work (State Referrals of Power and Consequential Amendments to Other Legislation) Act 2009 and the Fair Work Amendment (State Referrals and Other Measures) Act 2009.

Territory private sector employment is always regulated by Commonwealth law. Therefore, all private sector employers in the ACT and the NT are covered by the FW Act.

This means that the FW Act now applies to approximately 96% of Australian private sector employers.


Top stories for Fair Work Act


Overworked professional employees – How do you comply with the Fair Work Act?

Industrial Instruments

Each week we read about another employer who has been allegedly not paying their employees for the hours they have worked. These cases are often not concerned with employers applying a pay rate that is less than the applicable award […]

By Charles Power on November 20th, 2019

Your questions answered: Must an employee have a protected attribute to request flexible work arrangements?

Industrial Instruments

Q An employee who does not have any protected attributes has requested to work fewer days, but the same number of hours. Is it reasonable to tell the employee that potential approval of working 5 days hours over 4 days […]

By Portner Press on November 20th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we make an employee pay our insurance excess?

Industrial Instruments

Q One of our employees reversed into main entrance glass doors while parking his car. Our company had to pay $500 excess on the insurance claim. We’d like to claim that back from the employee by offering him a payment […]

By Portner Press on November 13th, 2019

Apprentice who refused weekend overtime was unfairly dismissed, FWC rules

Industrial Instruments

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ordered a small business employer to pay eight weeks’ wages to an apprentice it sacked, after finding he was unfairly dismissed for refusing to work overtime on a Sunday. Perfect Coat Painting believed that […]

By Portner Press on November 11th, 2019

I’ve rectified an underpayment to my employees. Do I need to tell the FWO?

Industrial Instruments

Each week a different employer is self-disclosing underpayments of wages to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). In the face of recent adverse media publicity about award breaches and so-called ‘wage theft’, non-complying employers perceive there is a positive in letting […]

By Charles Power on November 6th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do employer and employee notice periods need to be the same?

Industrial Instruments

Q We would like to extend the notice period to 4 weeks for all employees regardless of length of service. Is it possible to do this just for employees, as we would be looking to keep the employer notice period […]

By Portner Press on November 6th, 2019

Ignoring complaints of overwork could make an employee’s resignation a dismissal

Industrial Instruments

You will dismiss someone for the purposes of unfair dismissal laws if they are forced to resign because of your conduct or a course of conduct engaged in by you. The test is whether your actions result directly or consequentially […]

By Charles Power on November 4th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can our employees be made to take annual leave or unpaid leave during our company’s Christmas closure?

Industrial Instruments

Q Our company closes over Christmas and New Year each year. If an employee’s annual leave balance is not sufficient to cover this closure period, we ask our staff to take advanced annual leave. Can we provide them with an […]

By Portner Press on November 4th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do we have to pay our casual employee extra on Saturday?

Industrial Instruments

Q If a casual is asked to work Saturday (which is not part of their normal roster) what rate do we have to pay? (i.e. overtime rates or Saturday rates?) A Generally, the casual employee would be entitled to be […]

By Portner Press on October 28th, 2019

What is work entitling the worker to wages?

Industrial Instruments

If you request or require your employee to perform work over a particular period, you will trigger an obligation to pay the employee for the hours she or he works. In very many industries it is common for employees to […]

By Charles Power on October 25th, 2019