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


Does the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code apply to big business franchisees?

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To qualify as a small business under the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, a business must employ fewer than 15 employees, including: employees in related entities, e.g. subsidiaries or parent companies, including those outside Australia; part-time employees; and casual employees […]

By Portner Press on August 19th, 2019

FWC dobs in rehab clinic for sham contracting

Industrial Instruments

  A Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing has revealed that a Melbourne addiction treatment clinic appears to have its own abuse problem, as an employer. DayHab made a jurisdictional objection to a counsellor’s unfair dismissal claim, arguing that she was […]

By Portner Press on August 14th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do ‘excited utterances’ apply in Australian employment law?

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Q We have a new HR manager who wants to use “excited utterances” as part of staff incident investigations. I cannot find any reference to this in the Handbook. Does this term exist within NSW/Australian law? A “Excited utterances” is […]

By Portner Press on August 7th, 2019

George Calombaris to speak publicly about Fair Work compliance

Industrial Instruments

Celebrity chef George Calombaris has been issued with an enforceable undertaking from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) where he must complete seven public speaking engagements to educate the restaurant industry about workplace law compliance. The FWO investigated Mr Calombaris’s MAdE […]

By Portner Press on July 22nd, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we refuse dated expense claims?

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Q An employee who left the company recently has submitted unclaimed expenses dating back 2.5 years. During his employment, he was asked many times to submit his claims, but failed to do so. About 6 months ago, our company implemented […]

By Portner Press on July 8th, 2019

Your questions answered: Is it lawful to accept unpaid internship requests?

Industrial Instruments

Q Our business has had a number of enquiries regarding prospective interns for a range of timeframes. Some have offered to work unpaid just so they can obtain the experience in our industry. Would it be lawful for us to […]

By Portner Press on June 26th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do employees have to abide by the company’s grievance policy?

Industrial Instruments

Q My client’s employee chose not to use the employer’s grievance policy process and instead lodged an application direct to the FWC, alleging discrimination over being pregnant. If employees have a right not to use the employer’s grievance policy to […]

By Portner Press on June 21st, 2019

Tokyo Sushi franchisee fined $380,000

Industrial Instruments

A Tokyo Sushi franchisee who thought she could give her employees a raw deal has been hit with $383,616 in penalties from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). Ms Kiyoshi Hasegawa was personally fined $63,936 for underpaying 31 employees a total […]

By Portner Press on June 17th, 2019

11 steps to take when managing a pregnant employee

Industrial Instruments

If your employee becomes pregnant, you have additional legal obligations under the Fair Work Act that you must comply with. You must ensure that you: inform the employee of her rights; consult the employee about changes to her employment; manage […]

By Portner Press on June 14th, 2019

Toy retailer to face increased fines for underpayment of staff

Industrial Instruments

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will not toy around with employers who think they can flagrantly flout employment laws by preying on vulnerable workers. Melbourne toy retailer IE Enterprises Pty Ltd, trading as Uncle Toys, and its director Eyal Israel […]

By Portner Press on June 12th, 2019