What's the National Employment Standards?

When employing someone in Australia there are certain laws you must abide by.

Federal employment laws such as the Fair Work Act apply to anywhere in Australia, but there are additional laws that also apply depending on which state or territory you are in.

The National Employment Standards are part of the Fair Work Act and set out 11 minimum standards of employment that apply to all employees in Australia. They cannot be overriden by an Award, Employment Contract or Enterprise Agreement.

1. Maximum weekly hours of work

You cannot ask an employee to work more than 38 hours per week, unless the additional hours are reasonable.

Some Awards may allow hours of work to instead be averaged over a period greater than a week, so an individual week may be more than 38 hours but the average should still not exceed 38 hours.

2. Individual Flexibility Arrangements

You must allow certain employees the right to request flexible working arrangements such as parents of young children, a carer, an individual with a disability or over 55 years old.

Examples of flexibility they request may include:

  • hours of work (e.g. less hours, start/finish times)

  • patterns of work (e.g. split-shifts or job share)

  • location of work (e.g. working remotely)

In responding to an employee’s request, you can only refuse based on ‘reasonable business grounds’.

3. Parental Leave

Eligible employees expecting their child or adopting a child can take up to 24 months unpaid leave which means as an employer you have an obligation to allow them to come back to their job after that period.

4. Annual Leave

An employee (other than Casual) accumulates 4 weeks of paid annual leave for each year of service with you. This is pro-rated for Part-Time employees which just means leave accumulates on a percentage of the full accrual if they were Full-Time.

5. Personal/Carer's Leave, Compassionate Leave and Family & Domestic Violence Leave

An employee (other than Casual) accumulates 10 days paid Personal/Carer's Leave per annum (which can include 'sick leave' and leave for caring for an immediate family member. This is pro-rated for Part-Time employees which just means leave accumulates on a percentage of the full accrual if they were Full-Time.

On occasions where an employee has exhausted all accrued paid Carer's Leave, they are still entitled to 2 days of unpaid Carer’s Leave for each occasion. The unpaid version of this type of leave applies to Casuals also.

An employee are allowed leave for up to 2 days on occasions where a member of their immediate family or household who suffers a life-threatening illness or injury. For Casuals this is unpaid, but is paid for all other employees.

All employees are also entitled to 5 days of unpaid Family & Domestic Violence Leave per annum. Unlike other forms of leave these don't accrue based on hours, this entitlement begins from their very first day.

6. Community Service Leave

You must allow employees leave from work for voluntary emergency activities (e.g. if they are a voluntary member of SES/RFS etc.) and jury duty.

Leave for voluntary emergency activities is unpaid and is not limited per occasion.

Eligible employees (which doesn’t include Casuals) are entitled to pay during leave for jury duty which is calculated at the difference between jury duty pay (excluding expense-related allowances) and the employee’s base pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked.

7. Long Service Leave

Depending on the relevant State/Territory Law or Award, an employee may be entitled to Long Service Leave after a period of continuous service ranging from 7 to 15 years with the same or a related employer.

8. Public Holidays

You need to pay an employee for a day off when a Public Holiday falls on their regular workday (except for Casuals), except when reasonably requested to work (and penalty rates will apply).

9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay

If you decide to terminate their employment (for reasons other than serious misconduct or it being only a temporary job), you will need to give them written notice which is calculated based on how long they have been employed with you (except Casuals).

In cases of redundancy where you no longer the job to be performed by anyone (e.g. bankruptcy, insolvency, restructure) you also need to pay a lump sum in the employee’s final pay calculated based on how long they have been employed with you (except Casuals). Note – redundancy pay does not apply if you are a small business employer (less than 15 employees).

10. Information Statements

You need to provide your new employee with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement before, or as soon as possible after they start their new job.

If you are employing them in a Casual capacity, you will also need to give them the Casual Employment Information Statement.

Both these publications are issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

11. Casual Conversion

Eligible long-term Casual employees should be offered to transfer from Casual to Permanent work at 12-month anniversary of their start date, assuming there is a reasonable assumption their work/hours will continue in the same way into the future.

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