Workplace law is an umbrella of rules and regulations governing the relationship between a business or organisation and its employees. It is a key consideration in numerous business decisions. Employers are increasingly responsible for the proactive management of their workplaces and must deal with a range of real and potential issues that can impact their organisation’s people, performance, and profitability. Understanding these obligations and knowing when to seek professional guidance is essential for owners, directors, and managers.
We have vast experience in a variety of workplace employment and industrial relations matters and can assist with:
Employment law matters
- Drafting employment contracts, terms, and conditions
- Representation for cases of unfair and unlawful dismissal
- Advising and assisting in the resolution of industrial and workplace disputes
- Advising on workplace contracts and advice for termination of employment
- Drafting and negotiating enterprise agreements
- Advising in relation to independent contractors
- Discrimination and harassment issues
Industrial law matters
- Assisting in the resolution of industrial disputes
- Advising clients for workforce restructuring
- Drafting and negotiating policies and procedures
- Statutory obligations under Commonwealth and State legislation
- Risk management of workplace hazards
- Advising on award obligations and compliance issues
Certain minimum employment conditions are regulated by law, however having a well-drafted employment contract can help provide clarity, manage expectations, and set the parameters of the employment relationship from the outset. An employment contract can provide important terms and details, such as:
- commencement date and duration of employment, if for a fixed term
- duties and accountabilities including reporting lines
- remuneration and overtime arrangements
- leave entitlements and superannuation
- probation periods and disciplinary procedures
- termination and notice requirements
- performance appraisals and wage reviews
- codes of conduct, complaints, and dispute resolution procedures (which may be further detailed in relevant policies)
- restraint of trade and confidentiality provisions
- confirmation of the legislation/award governing the employment relationship
Termination and unfair dismissal
Termination of employment may occur through voluntary resignation by an employee or dismissal by the employer on the grounds of redundancy or for other reasons. Generally, employees must be provided with written notice when their termination is instigated by the employer, unless the employee’s termination is due to serious misconduct. The notice period will depend on the length of service of the employee. We recommend getting legal advice if you are considering terminating an employee.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an unfair dismissal is one which is harsh, unjust, or unreasonable, or not a ‘genuine redundancy’ (where the employer no longer needs the role to be performed). There is a time limit to bring an unfair dismissal claim, so if you think your dismissal was unfair, it is important to get advice as soon as possible. Similarly, if one of your employees has brought a claim for unfair dismissal, getting legal advice on how to manage the situation quickly and effectively is essential.
Generally, redundancy occurs when an employer no longer requires the employee’s job to be done by any other person. Subject to the employee’s length of service, type and conditions of employment, the employee may be entitled to redundancy pay.
Typically, redundancy occurs when a business needs to restructure or downsize due to economic decline, and/or new technology is introduced to improve efficiency resulting in fewer employees being required. Redundancies may also occur when a business shuts down, transfers ownership, or becomes insolvent.
If a purported redundancy is not genuine, an employer could face an unfair dismissal claim.
Discrimination and harassment
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of personal characteristics. Where adverse action is taken against an employee because of certain attributes, then this might be unlawful subject to the general protections clauses of the Fair Work Act. Adverse action may include dismissing someone, not hiring someone, treating a person differently or offering employment on less favourable terms, among other actions. Such actions might also amount to a breach of various anti-discrimination laws at a State or Federal level.
Employers have an obligation to manage the health and safety of employees in the workplace, including protecting employees from sexual harassment. If you need assistance with a discrimination or harassment claim, speak with one of our experienced lawyers today.
Industrial and workplace disputes
Just like in other areas of life, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise in the workplace. Disputes arise where people disagree about an outcome and the matter remains unresolved. Most of the time, a dispute can be resolved informally. The process for resolving more serious disputes may depend on the terms of the award or enterprise agreement that covers the employment. Broadly, awards require that parties first attempt to resolve a dispute within the workplace and, if the parties cannot reach a negotiated outcome, a dispute may be referred to the Fair Work Commission.
All enterprise agreements, prior to being approved by the Fair Work Commission, must have a procedure for resolving disputes, including allowing an employee to have a representative.
Over the years, employment law has changed dramatically. To minimise potential claims, organisations must understand the types of conduct (whether intentional or otherwise) that could breach a workplace law and proactively identify and manage at-risk behaviour through well-structured policies and procedures. For tailored strategic advice relevant to your workplace, contact one of our employment lawyers.
If you need assistance, contact us at or call 02 6245 6000 for expert legal advice.