Employment conditions and protections: What this chapter covers

In general, employers and employees are free to decide what the terms and conditions of the employment relationship will be. However, there are also some key minimum rights and protections that the law says form part of all employment relationships.

This chapter sets out your minimum rights and protections in the following areas:

  • wages, including when and how they’re paid
  • annual holidays (annual leave) and public holidays
  • sick leave and bereavement leave
  • parental leave, and how your job’s protected while you’re on leave
  • discrimination in employment
  • health and safety in the workplace
  • “whistle-blowers” (employees who give out information about serious wrongdoing by their employer).

Tougher new enforcement measures from April 2016

From 1 April 2016 there are tougher enforcement measures against employers who breach workers’ minimum rights in areas like minimum wages, holidays, rest/meal breaks, and breastfeeding facilities. Individual employers can now be given penalties of up to $50,000 (increased from $10,000), while for companies the maximum penalty is now either $100,000 or three times the gain they made out of the breach, whichever is more (an increase from $20,000). Some less serious breaches by employers still carry the old levels of penalties.

The new higher penalties also apply to employers who don’t keep copies of individual employment agreements or who don’t keep the required wages/time records and holiday/leave records. In those cases labour inspectors also have the option of issuing an infringement notice carrying a $1,000 fine (these are like a speeding ticket: the employer can simply pay the fine or they can go to court to challenge the notice, but regardless of whether they pay it first off or get found guilty in court, they don’t get a criminal record).

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