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Labour Laws: 5 Things New Business Owners Should Know About Employment Law in Australia

Starting a new business in Australia is an exciting venture, but it comes with a range of complex legal responsibilities you’ll have to wade through. If you plan to hire an employee or three, then employment law can be a particularly overwhelming aspect to come to grips with. 

As daunting as Australian labour laws may be, it’s vital that you develop a working understanding of them to ensure your business operates within legal boundaries. What are the most important aspects business owners need to understand? To find out, we spoke to some of the best commercial lawyers Albury has to offer. Here’s what they had to say:

1. National Employment Standards (NES)

The National Employment Standards (NES) are the foundation of employment law in Australia, so this is the most logical place to start. These standards set out the minimum entitlements all employees should receive, including things like leave, working hours, and termination procedures. As a business owner, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with these standards so you can ensure your employment contracts comply with them. 

Failing to comply can result in penalties and legal consequences, so if you really feel like you’re in over your head, turn to a commercial lawyer or an experienced business mentor for guidance.

2. Industry awards

In addition to the NES, modern awards are a crucial aspect of Australian employment law. These industry-specific awards set out minimum employment conditions relating to wages, including rates, overtime, and other working conditions for specific industries. As a new business owner, it’s your responsibility to determine which awards apply to your industry and ensure your employment contracts comply with them.

Once again, non-compliance can result in costly penalties and damage to your business's reputation. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. 

3. The Fair Work Act

The Fair Work Act 2009 is the primary piece of legislation governing employment law in Australia. It regulates the relationship between your business and its employees, covering such factors as termination, unfair dismissal, industrial action, and collective bargaining. 

Understanding the Fair Work Act is crucial if you want to prevent disputes and legal issues with your employees. A business lawyer or HR expert can be a valuable resource, helping you ensure compliance with this weighty piece of legislation.

4. Unfair dismissal laws

It’s vital that you familiarise yourself with the laws surrounding unfair dismissal in Australia. Under the Fair Work Act, employees who believe they have been unfairly dismissed can lodge a claim with the Fair Work Commission. As you can imagine, this often leads to time-consuming and costly legal processes for business owners.

To avoid unfair dismissal claims, you need to create clear and well-documented termination procedures. Disciplinary processes and performance reviews can also help you establish a strong foundation for any future dismissal actions.

5. Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws 

Australian Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations require business owners to provide a safe workplace, identify and manage risks, and provide training and resources for employees to maintain their health and safety. 

Compliance with WHS regulations helps you prevent accidents and injuries, reduce the risk of legal claims, and enhance the well-being of your team. So familiarise yourself with the WHS requirements specific to your industry, and establish a robust safety management system.

By understanding and complying with these key aspects of Australian employment law, you can build a solid legal foundation for your business. This is the best way to protect your interests while creating a positive and productive work environment for your employees.