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New workplace laws come into effect on July 1st 2009. This site will be updated shortly to reflect the new Fair Work laws.

Workplace agreements regarding wages and conditions can be either

  • collective agreements or
  • individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).

In addition, each employee has a contract of employment. It may be in writing or verbal.

The Federal government's "Workchoices" laws came into effect on March 27th 2006 and make significant changes to the way collective and individual AWA  agreements work.

  • Agreements can last longer (up to 5 years) 
  • Once agreements reach their expiry date, they do not necessarily remain in force. Wages and conditions can drop to the safety net level of an Award or the Fair Pay Commission minimum.
  • Individual AWA workplace agreements can be offered at any time.
"Workchoices" will protect some award conditions when new workplace agreements are negotiated. These are:
  1. penalty rates, including for work on weekends and public holidays,
  2. shift/overtime loadings,
  3. allowances,
  4. public holidays,
  5. meal and rest breaks,
  6. annual leave loadings,
  7. incentive-based payments and bonuses
If these conditions are not specifically dealt with and replaced in the new agreement then the provisions of the relevant award will continue to apply.

New Fairness Test.

For both collective and individual agreements (AWAs) offered after 7th May 2007, a "fairness test" must be applied, (provided the employee will earn less than $75,000 pa and the job is included in the scope of an award).

The new test states that if any of the above items 1-7 are removed employees must receive 'fair compensation' for that loss.

This could be a higher amount of pay, but could also be things such as a free parking space or film tickets. The test will be conducted by the Workplace Authority (formerly called Office of Workplace Services), which can order an agreement be changed if it fails the test.

This puts back in place part of the 'no-disadvantage' test that used to apply before the Workchoices laws were introduced in March 2006. (The federal government states it was never its intention that these conditions would be traded away without compensation.)

Note: existing AWAs entered into betwen March 2006 and 6th May 2007 will not be changed regardless of whether they fail the fairness test.


An employer may have a collective employment agreement with its workforce. The agreement may have been negotiated with a trade union (on behalf of the workforce), or just with the workforce (ie, no union involvement).

An agreement can set some or all terms and conditions of employment. That is, the agreement can over-ride some or all Award minimum conditions. Collective agreements must be voted on by employees, and cannot last longer than 5 years.

However many employers do not have collective agreements. In that case employment conditions for most jobs will be determined by an Award or, in Victoria, an Industry Sector Minimum Wage Order (see Awards and Minimum Wage Orders).

Working Today can help employees find out whether the employer has a collective agreement (relevant to the employee's job), and what it says.

AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE AGREEMENTS are no longer able to be made. Existing agreements will continue until their expiry date.

An employer which is a company (or which is located in Victoria or a Territory) can at any time offer an employee an individual agreement, known as an AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE AGREEMENT or AWA.

As with any important document it is important to get advice before signing an AWA. AWAs can significantly alter wages and conditions (upwards or downwards) that an employee would otherwise be entitled to receive, so advice should be sought. 

If given to an existing employee, 14 days must be allowed for the employee to consider and get advice about an AWA before signing. It is unlawful to force an existing employee to sign an AWA.

If given to a new employee, five days must be allowed to consider before signing. An employer is permitted to make the signing of an AWA a condition of starting the new job.

In both cases the employee must be given an explanation of the effects of the AWA, and an information statement about his or her rights.

Working Today can analyse an AWA and advise about what it means, and what it leaves out.



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