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


Good intentions do not provide a reasonable excuse for not paying workers

Industrial Instruments

If a Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) inspector reasonably believes a person has not complied with applicable industrial laws, the inspector can issue a compliance notice requiring compliance. Failure to comply with the notice is itself a breach of the Fair […]

By Charles Power on January 22nd, 2020

How to keep your confidential workplace investigation reports out of court

Industrial Instruments

In some cases you might seek to have a lawyer investigate the facts or circumstances of an incident in the workplace, so they can give you professional legal advice about the implications of that incident for you and your business. […]

By Charles Power on December 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: Could our employee’s ongoing unpaid overtime result in a hefty back pay claim?

Industrial Instruments

Q Our employee claims he has worked an extra 30 minutes a day unpaid for about three years. This has not been expressly authorised but is not contested. Can a deed be used to effectively settle any back pay claims […]

By Portner Press on December 18th, 2019

Three quarters of ‘cheap eat’ establishments underpay their staff

Industrial Instruments

Are employers really concerned about correctly paying their staff? It appears many still aren’t. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) discovered this when it conducted an audit swoop on popular ‘cheap eat’ establishments in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide. The FWO […]

By Portner Press on December 17th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do we have to pay employees for non-compulsory training outside of work hours?

Industrial Instruments

Q If we are running a training session which is not compulsory and an employee chooses to attend that training on a non-working day, are we obligated to pay the employee for the hours spent at the training? We operate […]

By Portner Press on December 13th, 2019

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