As an employer it is important to be aware of and fulfil your employment obligations. This section will help you understand workplace regulations.
There are two different systems of employment regulation that operate in Western Australia – the Western Australian State industrial relations system and the national industrial relations system. It is important that you know which system applies to your business as this will determine the employment laws that apply to your business and your obligations as an employer.
WA's State industrial relations system covers employers who are not constitutional corporations and their employees. In general terms this includes employers who are sole traders and some partnerships and trust arrangements. This system is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act 1979, underpinned by minimum conditions and includes State Awards that apply to many employers.
Employment law for a family run business
A common workplace myth across many industries is that if your children, siblings or any other family members work for your business you are not required to comply with employment law.
Family members working in a business are deemed to be employees and are entitled to correct pay and conditions under State or national employment laws.
These include (but are not limited to):
- pay and hours of work;
- meal breaks; and
- parental, long service, annual and sick leave.
If you are unsure which employment regulation system covers your business, contact Wageline on 1300 655 266.
The Western Australian State industrial relations system
The Western Australian State industrial relations system covers employers who are not constitutional corporations and their employees. In general terms this includes employers who are sole traders and some partnerships and trust arrangements.
For those covered by the WA State industrial relations system, more information can be found on the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website. The following topics might be of interest.
For additional information and assistance regarding your obligations as an employer under the State industrial relations system contact Wageline on 1300 655 266 or visit commerce.wa.gov.au/labour-relations/contact-wageline.
Wageline is a free and confidential employment information service that provides information on rates of pay, conditions of employment including leave and workplace Awards and Agreements.
National industrial relations system
The national industrial relations system is regulated by the Fair Work Act and national modern Awards apply to many employers who are constitutional corporations, and their employees. There is no absolute rule that determines whether a particular corporation is covered by the national industrial relations system. Generally speaking, Proprietary Limited (Pty Ltd) or Limited (Ltd) companies tend to be in the national system by virtue of their trading or financial activities.
If you are unsure which employment regulation system covers your business, contact Wageline on 1300 655 266 or refer to commerce.wa.gov.au/labour-relations/contact-wageline
For further information and assistance regarding your obligations as an employer under the national industrial relations system call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or visit fairwork.gov.au.
Employment Awards and conditions of employment
Awards are legal documents that outline the wages and conditions of employment for groups of employees in a particular industry or type of work.
If employees are covered by an Award, the Award is legally binding on you as the employer. You must provide the entitlements outlined in the Award including wages and penalty rates, hours of work, allowances and a range of other provisions. Employers and employees cannot agree to lesser conditions or agree to ignore the Award. However, arrangements providing for pay and conditions better than those in the award are legal.
Most businesses are covered by either State Awards or national modern Awards.
WA State Awards
Visit the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's website for additional information on State Awards and a variety of labour relations issues including the following.
For more information about National modern Awards, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman website at fairwork.gov.au. This site provides a gateway to information and advice about workplace rights and regulations, including Awards and National employment standards.
If you are unsure whether a State or national Award applies to your business, call Wageline on 1300 655 366 for assistance to determine your employment obligations.
Equal opportunity and employment — Getting it right
The decision to hire someone must be based solely on their ability to do the job. The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 recognises and addresses discrimination in the area of employment. For further information, consult the Equal Opportunity Commission publication — Guidelines for employers: preventing discrimination against applicants and employees for guidance. As a potential employer, you cannot discriminate against a candidate on the following grounds or types of discrimination.
- Age – Being regarded as too young or too old
- Breastfeeding - Being asked not to feed, or to use other facilities to breast or bottle feed
- Family responsibility – Having a caring role
- Family status – Being a relative of a particular person or having the status of being a particular relative
- Gender history – Having reassigned gender as certified under the Gender Reassignment Act 2000
- Impairment – Having a physical, intellectual or mental disability that is current, past or imputed
- Marital status – Being single, married, a defacto partner, separated, divorced or widowed
- Political conviction – Including a lack of conviction
- Pregnancy – Being pregnant, having a characteristic associated with pregnancy or generally imputed to persons who are pregnant
- Race – Including colour, ethnicity or national origin or descent
- Racial harassment – Including offensive or insulting comments or other behaviour about a person’s colour, ethnic background or origin
- Religious conviction – Including a lack of conviction
- Sex – Being a man or woman
- Sexual harassment – Including unwelcome requests for sexual favours, touching and comments about a person’s private relationships
- Sexual orientation – Including heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality or assumed sexual orientation
- Spent conviction - The Commission can investigate discrimination on the ground of spent convictions under the Spent Convictions Act 1988
Employee health and safety
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees are safe in the workplace. Knowing and understanding occupational health and safety laws will help you avoid the unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury and illness. It is important to inform all employees about the health and safety requirements in your workplace.
WorkCover WA is the government agency responsible for overseeing the workers' compensation and injury management system in Western Australia. Your legal obligations to employees and other workers will depend on which labour relations system your business falls under.
Each person has a duty of care to ensure their action, or failure to take action, does not harm others. As an employer, your duty of care extends to ensuring that all employees are aware of:
- any risks to their health and safety;
- the procedures that are in place to ensure they do not suffer injury or illness while at work; and
- any instructions and relevant protective equipment that are required.
New employees are most at risk of being injured, primarily due to a lack of experience or familiarity with your workplace and processes. Make sure that you or experienced staff members provide proper training and supervise the new employee until you are confident that they are competent enough to be left unattended or unsupervised.
Make sure that your employees all have the required experience and are familiar with safety procedures, even if they have worked in similar jobs or workplaces previously.
Managing safety and health issues for migrant workers should be considered within the context of health and safety management for all workers. As an employer you have a general duty to provide and maintain, as far as practical, a working environment where workers are not exposed to hazards. Issues to consider for migrant workers may include:
- language barriers;
- cultural or religious differences;
- literacy difficulties;
- limited knowledge of local legislation and safety standards; and
- reluctance to engage with authority figures.
For information about your occupational health and safety obligations and requirements, contact WorkSafe on 1300 307 877 or consult the WorkSafe information on the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's website.
They also have important information relating to bullying and violence in the workplace.
WorkCover WA can provide advice on 1300 794 744 and there are some useful guides on their website, including: