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


Australia’s silent underclass of underpaid workers

Industrial Instruments

The Wage Theft in Silence report is based on a survey of 4322 temporary migrant workers from 107 countries working across Australia.

By Portner Press on December 12th, 2018

Underpaying employer forced to clean up its act

Industrial Instruments

A cleaning company found to have underpaid almost 99% of its staff must send apology letters to every affected worker, as well as place a public notice in the Australian Financial Review.

By Portner Press on December 5th, 2018

Second time in court for employment-law-flouting plumber

Industrial Instruments

This time he has allegedly underpaid another young employee a total of $3,929, in a six-week period between July and September 2017.

By Portner Press on November 30th, 2018

JB Hi-Fi’s proactive compliance gets approval from the FWO

Industrial Instruments

Following JB Hi-Fi underpaying nine of its employees in 2013, a Proactive Compliance Deed (PCD) with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will ensure its future workplace practices are compliant.

By Portner Press on November 28th, 2018

Employers can’t suspend pay if a worker breaches visa conditions

Industrial Instruments

You do not have a right to suspend an employee without pay unless provision is made for this right in legislation, the employment contract, or an applicable award or enterprise agreement.

By Charles Power on November 19th, 2018

Task-based contract employee wins unfair dismissal claim

Industrial Instruments

The FW Act unfair dismissal laws will not apply unless the claimant was dismissed. A person will not have been dismissed if they were employed under a contract of employment for a specified task and the employment has terminated on completion of the task.

By Charles Power on November 14th, 2018

Your questions answered: Can staff skip their morning tea break and take a longer lunch break instead?

Industrial Instruments

Q: If a worker misses their morning tea break, are they entitled to add the minutes to their lunch break?

By Portner Press on November 14th, 2018

Can you insist an employee is assessed by a doctor you nominate?

Industrial Instruments

The basis for this right is the general duty of care you owe all of your employees, underpinned by work health and safety legislation.

By Charles Power on November 7th, 2018

Your questions answered: Can we withhold ex-employees’ wages if they don’t return their uniforms?

Industrial Instruments

Q: Can we withhold ex-employees’ wages if they don’t return their uniforms?

By Portner Press on November 7th, 2018

FWC lifts its game finalising dismissal claims – but drops the ball on EBA approvals

Industrial Instruments

The 2017-2018 annual report of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) discloses the continuing effectiveness of the Fair Work Act unfair dismissal scheme in resolving claims.

By Charles Power on November 2nd, 2018