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


Commissioner seeks ‘robust consequences’ for employees who waste FWC time

Industrial Instruments

In Diane Porteous v G. Kakafikas and A.G. Bek partnership t/a Yarra Glen Pharmacy (2019), Fair Work Commission (FWC) Deputy President Alan Colman called to task an employee for wasting the time of the Commission and her employer. Deputy President […]

By Portner Press on October 9th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we refuse an employee’s request to reduce work hours?

Industrial Instruments

Q An employee has requested to work her same hours but spread over 4 days instead of her usual 5 days. This employee does not have any protected attributes. We don’t wish to approve this request as it will have […]

By Portner Press on October 7th, 2019

Federal Government considering a major overhaul of industrial relations laws

Industrial Instruments

The Federal Government recently initiated a process to consider changes to Australian industrial relations laws in a number of areas. A discussion paper raises the prospect of new criminal penalties imposed for worker exploitation, to complement existing offences for serious […]

By Charles Power on October 2nd, 2019

Confusion over casual employee entitlements still remains after Workpac decision

Industrial Instruments

Since the Full Federal Court decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene (2018) there remains significant uncertainty as to what is a casual employee for purposes of NES paid leave entitlements. According to WorkPac, a casual will in fact be […]

By Charles Power on September 27th, 2019

Federal Court shines a light on piece rates

Industrial Instruments

Some modern awards provide for an employer to agree to pay employees a piecework rate.  A piecework rate is an amount paid on completion of a specified task. For instance the Horticulture Award provides that an employer and an employee […]

By Charles Power on September 13th, 2019

HR administrator ignores call from the FWC

Industrial Instruments

Bakers Delight may now have become ‘bakers’ dismay’ for many of its employees in New South Wales, because of an HR administrator who was apparently too busy to answer a scheduled call from the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The HR […]

By Portner Press on September 6th, 2019

Can we ask an employee to choose another support person?

Industrial Instruments

Q Can we request that a party to a workplace investigation finds an alternative support person if the one they initially choose refuses to sign a confidentiality agreement? The support person is also a current employee. A If the employee […]

By Portner Press on September 2nd, 2019

Your questions answered: Do employees get superannuation on overtime paid at the normal rate?

Industrial Instruments

Q Could you please advise if award and agreement-free employees get super on overtime that isn’t paid at a higher rate? A Super should be paid on ordinary time earnings, which is generally referable to ordinary hours worked (i.e. not […]

By Portner Press on August 30th, 2019

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

Industrial Instruments

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